Invasion patterns and niche comparison of the butterfly Cacyreus marshalli among native and non-native range

Francesca Martelli, Federica Paradiso, Silvia Ghidotti, Ramona Viterbi, Cristiana Cerrato, Simona Bonelli*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Alien species introduction is a global phenomenon involving different invasion patterns and is characterized by niche conservatism or shift. We describe the spatial distribution of Cacyreus marshalli Butler, [1898] (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) in its native (southern Africa) and invaded (Europe) ranges. C. marshalli is the only alien butterfly in Europe, introduced by the trade of ornamental Pelargonium plants, and might threaten native lycaenids because of the chance of its naturalization on indigenous Geranium spp. In Europe, C. marshalli is widespread in the Mediterranean basin, but absent in northern countries. We investigate invasion patterns and their temporal dynamics in Italy, the most extensively invaded country, identifying three phases and different rates of spread resulting from multiple introductions and human-mediated movements. We also characterize and compare the native and invasive ecological niches of C. marshalli with a multivariate approach based on bioclimatic, ecological and human demographic variables. The little overlap between the native and invaded niches (12.6%) indicates a shift in the realized niche of C. marshalli. While the expansion potential of C. marshalli in Europe remains constrained by the distribution of suitable host plants, our niche comparison analysis suggests the species has already invaded new ecological and climatic spaces. This includes colder areas than would be suggested by its native distribution in Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3935-3952
JournalBiological Invasions
Issue number12
Early online date30 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes

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