Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of Biology

Degree Type

Master of Science in Biology


Two species of Limenitis butterflies occur along the Mississippi River at Hickman, Kentucky: the viceroy, L. archippus, and the red-spotted purple, L. arthemis astyanax. Limenitis archippus occurs at a frequency that is 10-30 times more abundant than its congener, L. arthemis astyanax. Interspecific matings between L. archippus and L. arthemis astyanax are very rare in the wild and give rise to a hybrid form Limenitis archippus X L. arthemis astyanax form rubidus. Only 7 heterospecific pairings between the parental species and 72 "rubidus" individuals have been documented in the wild in all of North America. Of these documented cases, 2 heterospecific mating pairs and 2 rubidus individuals have been collected along a single 100 meter stretch of the Mississippi River at Hickman over the last several years, suggesting that this may be a "hybridization hotspot". Molecular analysis of mitochondrial DNA haplotype, nuclear SNPs and nuclear Randomly Amplified DNA Fingerprints (RAF) from the 2 Hickman rubidus butterflies confirms that they are both Fi hybrids and that L. archippus was the maternal parent for each specimen. I am interested in discovering the extent to which hybridization has allowed gene flow between L. archippus and L. arthemis astyanax at this location. Ten individuals of each species were collected at Hickman and analyzed for both mitochondrial DNA haplotype and nuclear Randomly Amplified DNA Fingerprint (RAF) markers. The results of my analyses suggest that there may be some ongoing gene flow between these two species of Limenitis at this site.


Medical Sciences