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RESEARCH: BIOLOGY AND CONSERVATION OF INDIAN BUTTERFLIES

One of the long-term goals of our lab is to study the ecology and patterns of diversification, endemism, and evolution of Indian butterflies. Migration, seasonal population dynamics, biogeography, phylogeography, community structure, mimicry, species distribution patterns, and biology of endangered species, are some of the areas in which we have ongoing projects.
 

We have started a modern research collection of Indian butterflies and other insects, with associated geo-referenced data and DNA library, which we are using for our phylogenetic, phylogeographic, taxonomic, conservation genetics and conservation prioritization work on Indian butterflies and other biodiversity.

We are also spear-heading the continually updated and expanding website on Indian butterflies.
 



Selected Publications (also see our complete list of publications):

Basu, D. N., V. Bhaumik, and K. Kunte. 2023. The tempo and mode of character evolution in the assembly of mimetic communities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 120:e2203724120. Featured on the journal cover, in a PNAS Commetary, 'Butterfly mimicry rings run in circles', and in news articles on NCBS News (The Art of Subterfuge), Deccan Herald, and The Hindu.

Attiwilli, S., N. Ravikanthachari, and K. Kunte. 2023. A comparison between time-constrained counts and line transects as methods to estimate butterfly diversity and monitor populations in tropical habitats. Insect Conservation and Diversity, 10.1111/icad.12693.

Condamine, F. L., R. Allio, E. L. Reboud, J. R. Dupuis, E. F. A. Toussaint, N. Mazet, S.-J. Hue, D. S. Lewis, K. Kunte, A. M. Cotton, and F. A. H. Sperling. 2023. A comprehensive phylogeny and revised taxonomy illuminate the origin and diversification of the global radiation of Papilio (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 183:107758. PDF file (9 MB).

Kawahara, A. Y., C. Storer, A. P. S. Carvalho, ... K. Kunte ..., N. E. Pierce, and D. J. Lohman. 2023. A global phylogeny of butterflies reveals their evolutionary history, ancestral hosts, and biogeographic origins. Nature Ecology and Evolution, s41559-023-02041-9. PDF file (5.5 MB). Featured in a news article in The Hindu.

Hou, Y., C. Cao, H. Chiba, Z. Chang, S. Huang, L. Zhu, K. Kunte, H. Zhenfu, M. Wang, and X. Fan. 2023. Molecular phylogeny, historical biogeography, and classification of Pseudocoladenia butterflies (Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 186:107865.

Basu, D. N., V. Bhaumik, and K. Kunte. 2022. multEvol: An interactive pipeline for multitrait evolutionary analysis in a phylogenetic framework. Preprint on bioRxiv. DOI: .

Deshmukh, R., S. Baral, M. Kuwalekar, A. G. Kizhakke, and K. Kunte. 2022. Reproductive barriers and genomic hotspots of adaptation during allopatric species divergence. Preprint on bioRxiv. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.03.11.483945.

Kizhakke, A. G., and K. Kunte. 2022. Mimicry promotes morphological diversification but not speciation in mimetic swallowtail butterflies. Preprint on bioRxiv. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.11.05.515277.

Kuwalekar, M., R. Deshmukh, S. Baral, A. Padvi, and K. Kunte. 2022. Duplication and sub-functionalisation characterise diversification of opsin genes in the Lepidoptera. Preprint on bioRxiv. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.10.31.514481.

Naik, D., R. S. P. Rao, K. Kunte, and M. S. Mustak. 2022. Seasonal dynamics and polyphenism of butterfly communities in the coastal plains of central Western Ghats, India. Journal of Biosciences, 47:79.

Naik, D., R. S. P. Rao, K. Kunte, M. S. Mustak. 2022. Ecological monitoring and indicator taxa: Butterfly communities in heterogeneous landscapes of the Western Ghats and Malabar coast, India. Journal of Insect Conservation, 26:107–119. ePDF on the journal website. Read news coverage in Deccan Herald and The Hindu.

Attiwilli, S., T. Karmakar, K. Isvaran, and K. Kunte. 2022. Habitat preference and functional traits influence responses of tropical butterflies to varied habitat disturbance. International Journal of Tropical Insect Science, 42:855–864.

Joshi, J., and K. Kunte. 2022. Polytypy and systematics: diversification of Papilio swallowtail butterflies in the biogeographically complex Indo-Australian Region. Preprint on bioRxiv. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.03.23.485569.

Wang, Z., W. Da, C. S. Negi, P. L. Ghimire, K. Wangdi, P. K. Yadav, Z. Pubu, L. Lama, K. Yarpel, S. C. Maunsell, Y. Liu, K. Kunte, K. S. Bawa, D. Yang, and N. E. Pierce. 2022. Profiling, monitoring and conserving caterpillar fungus in the Himalayan region using anchored hybrid enrichment markers. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B, 289:20212650.

Kunte, K., A. G. Kizhakke, and V. Nawge. 2021. Evolution of mimicry rings as a window into community dynamics. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, 52:315–341. PDF file (4.6 MB).

Basu, D. N., and K. Kunte. 2020. Tools of the trade: MicroCT reveals native structure and functional morphology of organs that drive caterpillar-ant interactions. Scientific Reports, 10:10593. PDF file (4.4MB). A video of Apharitis lilacinus caterpillar with 3D structures of its specialized ant-associated organs, delineated with microCT scanning, is available on the Biodiversity Atlas – India YouTube channel. See popular science coverage in NCBS News, EurekAlert!, Research Matters, and in The Hindu.

Bhaumik, V., and K. Kunte. 2020. Dispersal and migration have contrasting effects on butterfly flight morphology and reproduction. Biology Letters, 16:20200393. PDF file (730 KB). See popular science coverage in NCBS News, EurekAlert!, Research Matters, and Le Monde (in French).

Gautam, S., and  K. Kunte. 2020. Adaptive plasticity in wing melanisation of a montane butterfly across a Himalayan elevational gradient. Ecological Entomology, published online ahead of print.

Kunte, K., D. N. Basu, and G. S. Girish Kumar. 2019. Taxonomy, Systematics, and Biology of Indian Butterflies in the 21st Century. Pp. 275–304, in Indian Insects: Diversity and Science, S. Ramani, P. Mohanraj and H. M. Yeshwanth (eds). Taylor & Francis, UK. pp. 472. PDF file (19MB, with many colour plates).

Basu, D. N., P. Churi, A. Soman, A. Sengupta, M. Bhakare, S. Lokhande, S. Bhoite, B. Huertas, and K. Kunte. 2019. The genus Tarucus Moore, [1881] (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) in the Indian Subcontinent. Tropical Lepidoptera Research, accepted.

Sujitha, P. C., Prasad G., Nitin R., D. N. Basu, K. Kunte, and Kalesh S. 2019. Current distribution of Nilgiri grass yellow Eurema nilgiriensis Yata (Lepidoptera: Pieridae), with an updated taxonomic key to Eurema of Western Ghats, India. Entomon, 44:23-32. PDF file (620KB).

Huang, Z., H. Chiba, J. Jin, Athulya Girish K., M. Wang, K. Kunte, and X. Fan. 2019. A multilocus phylogenetics framework of the tribe Aeromachini (Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae: Hesperiinae), with implications for taxonomy and historical biogeography. Systematic Entomology, 44:163–178. PDF file (2.8MB).

Kunte, K. 2018. Butterflies in a changing climate. pp. 94–96 in Biodiversity and Climate Change: An Indian Perspective, edited by J. Bhatt, A. Das, and K. Shanker. Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, New Delhi, India. PDF file (650KB).

Bhaumik, V., and K. Kunte. 2018. Female butterflies modulate investment in reproduction and flight in response to monsoon-driven migrations. Oikos, 127:285–296. PDF file (4.3MB, has colour figures). See popular coverage on EurekAlet!, NCBS News, and The Hindu.

Phalnikar, K., K. Kunte, and D. Agashe. 2018. Dietary and developmental shifts in butterfly-associated bacterial communities. Royal Society Open Science, 5:171559. PDF file (1MB).

T. Karmakar, R. Nitin, V. Sarkar, S. Baidya, S. Mazumder, V. K. Chandrasekharan, R. Das, G. S. Girish Kumar, S. Lokhande, J. Veino, L. Veino, M. J. Rakoveine, Z. Mirza, R. V. Sanap, B. Sarkar, and K. Kunte. 2018. Early stages and larval host plants of some northeastern Indian butterflies. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 10:11780–11799. PDF file (3.5MB, has colour plates of butterfly early stages).

Nitin, R., V. C. Balakrishnan, P. V. Churi, S. Kalesh, S. Prakash, and K. Kunte. 2018. Larval host plants of the butterflies of the Western Ghats, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 10:11495–11550. PDF file (1.3MB).

T. Karmakar, R. Nitin, V. Sarkar, S. Baidya, S. Mazumder, V. K. Chandrasekharan, R. Das, G. S. Girish Kumar, S. Lokhande, J. Veino, L. Veino, M. J. Rakoveine, Z. Mirza, R. V. Sanap, B. Sarkar, and K. Kunte. 2018. Early stages and larval host plants of some northeast Indian butterflies. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 12:in press.

Sondhi, S., and K. Kunte. 2018. Butterflies of Uttarakhand – A Field Guide. Bishen Singh Mahendra Pal Singh (Dehradun), Titli Trust (Dehradun), National Centre for Biological Sciences (Bengaluru), and Indian Foundation for Butterflies (Bengaluru). x+310pp, all in full color.

Sondhi, S., and K. Kunte. 2018. Butterflies and Moths of Pakke Tiger Reserve (2nd edition). Titli Trust (Dehradun), National Centre for Biological Sciences, (Bengaluru), and Indian Foundation for Butterflies (Bengaluru). vi+242pp, all in full colour.

Deshmukh, R., S. Baral, A. Gandhimathi, M. Kuwalekar, and K. Kunte. 2017. Mimicry in butterflies: co-option and a bag of magnificent developmental genetic tricks. WIREs Developmental Biology, published online early. PDF file (8.5MB, has colour figures).

Joshi, J., A. Prakash, and K. Kunte. 2017. Evolutionary assembly of communities in butterfly mimicry rings. The American Naturalist, 189:E58–E76. PDF file (12MB, has colour figures). Winner of the American Society of Naturalists' 2018 Presidential Award, "honoring an outstanding article published in The American Naturalist in the previous year". See coverage on NCBS News.

Sondhi, S., and K. Kunte. 2016. Butterflies (Lepidoptera) of the Kameng Protected Area Complex, western Arunachal Pradesh, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 8:9053-9124. PDF file (9MB, includes colour plates).

Jain, A., K. Kunte, and E. L. Webb. 2016. Flower specialization of butterflies and impacts of non-native flower use in a transformed tropical landscape. Biological Conservation, 201:184–191. PDF file (712KB).

Kunte, K. 2016. Biogeographic origins and habitat use of the butterflies of the Western Ghats. pp. 1–21, in D. R. Priyadarsanan, M. Soubadra Devy, K. A. Subramanian, N. A. Aravind, and N. K. Seena. (eds.) Invertebrate Diversity and Conservation in the Western Ghats, India. Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bengaluru. pp. 265. PDF file (315KB).

Su, S., M. Lim, and K. Kunte. 2015. Prey from the eyes of predators: colour discriminability of aposematic and mimetic butterflies from an avian visual perspective. Evolution, 69:2985–2994. PDF file (650KB; or PDF file with supporting information, 1.1MB). This work was featured on the cover of the journal issue, and in several popular science news stories in PhysOrg, EurekAlert, The Hindu, The Statesman, and NCBS News, among others.

Kunte, K. 2015. A new species of Hypolycaena (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) from Arunachal Pradesh, north-eastern India. The Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera, 48:21-27. PDF file (3.8MB, has colour images of the types and other specimens). See the press release or popular science coverage of this paper in The Hindu, The Telegraph, National Geographic Traveller India and Times of India, among many others.

Toussaint, E. F. A., J. Morinière, C. J. Müller, K. Kunte, B. Turlin, A. Hausmann, and M. Balke. 2015. Comparative molecular species delimitation in the charismatic Nawab butterflies (Nymphalidae, Charaxinae, Polyura). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 91:194-209. PDF file (7.2MB).

Kunte, K., W. Zhang, A. Tenger-Trolander, D. H. Palmer, A. Martin, R. D. Reed, S. P. Mullen, and M. R. Kronforst. 2014. doublesex is a mimicry supergene. Nature, 507:229-232. PDF file (1.2MB). Read more about the story on this webpage. See popular science coverage of this paper in Nature, Nature India, Science, NCBS News, The Scientist, National Geographic's Phenomena blog, Mongabay, New York Times, The Hindu, and ScienceDaily.

Kunte, K., S. Sondhi, G. Agavekar, R. Lovalekar, and K. Tokekar. 2013. Final notes on the identification and misidentification of butterflies of the Garo Hills. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 5:5019-5020. PDF file (4.7MB, has a color figure).

Kunte, K., G. Agavekar, S. Sondhi, R. Lovalekar, and K. Tokekar. 2013. On the identification and misidentification of butterflies of the Garo Hills. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 5:4616-4620. PDF file (3.2MB, has color figures).

Rai, S., K. D. Bhutia, and Kunte, K. 2012. Recent sightings of two very rare butterflies, Lethe margaritae Elwes, 1882 and Neptis nycteus de Nicéville, 1890, from Sikkim, eastern Himalaya, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 4:3319-3326. PDF file (5 MB, has color figures and maps).

Kunte, K., S. Sondhi, B. M. Sangma, R. Lovalekar, K. Tokekar, and G. Agavekar. 2012. Butterflies of the Garo Hills of Meghalaya, northeastern India: Their diversity and conservation. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 4:2933-2992. PDF file (8MB, has a color map and 16 color plates).

Kunte, K. 2010. Rediscovery of the federally protected Scarce Jester Butterfly Symbrenthia silana de Nicéville, 1885 (Nymphalidae: Nymphalinae) from the Eastern Himalaya and Garo Hills, northeastern India. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 2:858-866. PDF file (5.8MB, has color figures and a map).

Roy, A. B., U. Ghosh and K. Kunte. 2010. Sighting of Elymnias panthera (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Satyrinae) in West Bengal, eastern India. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 2:670-671. PDF file (135KB, has a color photograph).

Kunte, K. and A. Tiple. 2009. The Polyommatine wing pattern elements and seasonal polyphenism of the Indian Chilades pandava butterfly (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae). News of the Lepidopterists' Society, 51:86-88 and 109. PDF file (2.8MB, has color photographs).

Tiple, A., D. Agashe, A. M. Khurad and K. Kunte. 2009. Population dynamics and seasonal polyphenism of Chilades pandava butterfly (Lycaenidae) in central India. Current Science, 97:1774-1779. PDF file (262KB, includes a color figure). Also featured in "In This Issue" (PDF file, 45KB) and on the cover.

Larsen, T. B., R. I. Vane-Wright, K. Kunte and V. Nazari. 2009. Case 3488. Papilio danae Fabricius, 1775 (currently Colotis danae; Insecta, Lepidoptera, Pieridae): proposed conservation of prevailing usage by the suppression of Papilio danae Hufnagel, 1766. Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature, 66:250-255. PDF file (74KB).

Kunte, K. 2008. The Wildlife (Protection) Act and conservation prioritization of butterflies of the Western Ghats, southwestern India. Current Science, 94:729-735. PDF file (132KB). Also featured in "In This Issue" (PDF file, 30KB) and on the cover. A PDF file of this article with an appendix giving the conservation values of all the Western Ghats butterfly species may be downloaded here (PDF file, 300KB).

Kunte, K. 2005. Species composition, sex-ratio and movement patterns in danaine butterfly migrations in southern India. Journal of Bombay Natural History Society, 102:280-286. PDF file (700KB).

Kunte, K. 2000. Butterflies of Peninsular India. Universities Press (Hyderabad) and Indian Academy of Sciences (Bangalore). First fascicle from "India: A Lifescape", series editor: Madhav Gadgil.

Kunte, K. J., A. P. Joglekar, G. Utkarsh, and P. Pramod. 1999. Patterns of butterfly, bird and tree diversity in the Western Ghats. Current Science, 77:577-586. PDF file (7.6MB).

Kunte, K. J. 1997. Seasonal patterns in butterfly abundance and species diversity in four tropical habitats in northern Western Ghats. Journal of Biosciences, 22:593-603. PDF file (220KB).