Like many insect populations, butterfly populations are declining. In France, their range continues to shrink: two-thirds of species have disappeared from at least one department they occupied last century. Yet butterflies, of which there are more than 19,000 species worldwide, have existed for millions and millions of years. Appearing in the middle of the Cretaceous, they cohabited with dinosaurs and survived the mass extinction of the late Cretaceous, the Cretaceous-Paleogene transition (K-Pg) 66 million years ago.
For the first time, a study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution accurately traces the circumstances of their appearance. Previous large-scale analysis of their DNA had already dated the origin of butterflies to about 100 million years ago, when moths began flying during the day to take advantage of the nectar-rich flowers. In this new publication, a team...
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