Since their first appearance, approximately 110 million years ago, butterflies have diversified into more than 18,000 extant species, distributed across all continents and have become an iconic group of insects. We will take a walk through time, from the time dinosaurs still roamed the planet to discuss recent developments in butterflies phylogenetics and the timing of their origin from a revised set of fossils. Focusing on the richest family of butterflies, the Nymphalidae, I will continue with a new 2800 tip phylogeny – almost 50% of the extant diversity included – and discuss how butterflies spread across continents and how we explain the extant distribution of diversity from the tropics to the poles. Reaching present day diversity, I will focus on the European butterfly diversity, its current state and threats. Many species are declining and I will discuss whether traits and past evolution of the ecological niche explain these current trends. Finally, I will show the results of simple predictions about the future of European butterfly diversity in different habitats, by projecting the current estimated population trends into the future. Based on this simple scenario, I explore how much recent habitat changes in quantity and quality predict the decline of diversity.
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