Picture of Marianne Espeland

Marianne Espeland

Postdoctoral fellow

Tel +1 857 277 8424

Marianne Espeland

Research Interests

The evolution of phyto-predation in butterflies

Lepidochrysops loveni, Tugen hills, Kenya. Photo: M. Espeland.
Lepidochrysops loveni, Tugen hills, Kenya
Photo: M. Espeland

More than 99% of the estimated 18,000 species of butterflies are herbivorous. In the family Lycaenidae around 75% of the species are associated with ants in some way, and it has been proposed that ant association has lead to the diversification of the family. Most lycaenid-ant relationships appear to be mutualistic, where the ants provide protection for caterpillars and, in return, the ants are rewarded with attractive secretions from specialised glands on the cuticle of the caterpillar. But a small fraction of lycaenids are aphytophagous with caterpillars that are predators of homopterans tended by ants, and/or parasites of ant brood.

Aphytophagy has evolved independently from mutualistic associations with ants in multiple lineages throughout the family. With the exception of modest radiations of about 120 species each in the subfamily Miletinae and the genus Lepidochrysops (Lycaeninae: Polyommatini), aphytophagy appears to be an "extinction-prone dead end," as it is only found as single species or small clades scattered throughout the Lycaenidae.

I am investigating the evolution of phyto-predation in a phylogenetic framework by inferring the evolutionary history of all the main lineages of Lepidochrysops using molecular characters, and then applying comparative methods and stable isotope analysis to assess diversification patterns and life history evolution in the group.

Other projects and collaborators

Factors affecting diversification of Nymphalid butterflies. Collaborating with Carlos Peña and Niklas Wahlberg (University of Turku, Finland)

Phylogenetics and biogeography of caddisflies (Trichoptera). Collaborating with Kjell Arne Johanson (Swedish Museum of Natural History)


Oct 2010 Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) in systematic zoology. Stockholm University / Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm, Sweden.
Thesis title: "Diversification on an ancient Darwinian island: Evolutionary history of caddisflies and other organisms on New Caledonia".
Dec 2004 Candidatus scientarium (M.Sc) in systematic biology. Norwegian University of Technology and Science (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway.
Thesis title: "The systematics of the lowland and mountain forms of the green-veined white butterfly Pieris napi L. (Lepidoptera)".
May 2003 Candidatus magisterii (B.Sc) in biology. Norwegian University of Technology and Science (NTNU).

Research and Work Experience


2011-present Postdoctoral researcher, Museum of Comparative Zoology and Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University. Lab of Prof. Naomi Pierce. Funded by the Research Council of Norway.
2007-2008 Research assistant at the Molecular Systematics Lab, Swedish Museum of Natural History.
2006-2011 PhD fellow, Department of Zoology, Stockholm University / Entomology Department, Swedish Museum of Natural History.
2005-2006 Curatorial assistant at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, Entomology Department.
2005 Research technician at the Norwegian Crop Research Institute, Særheim, Norway.
2005 Research assistant at the Museum of Natural History and Archaeology, Department of Natural History, Trondheim, Norway.
2002 Research technician at the Norwegian Crop Research Institute, Særheim, Norway.


Undergraduate level:

Lepidochrysops peculiaris hypoleucus, Kima, Kenya. Photo: M. Espeland.
Lepidochrysops peculiaris hypoleucus, Kima, Kenya
Photo: M. Espeland
2009-2010 Zoophysiology (histology part), Stockholm University
2008-2010 Organism diversity and phylogeny (dissections and microscope preps), Stockholm University

Graduate level:

2006-2008 Systematic Zoology (Entomology part), Swedish Museum of Natural History

Field work

2012 Collection of Lepidoptera and Trichoptera in Kenya and Malawi
2011 Collection of Lepidoptera and Trichoptera in South Africa and Zambia
2010 Collection of Trichoptera in Rio Negro and Nequén, Argentina
2008 Collection of Trichoptera in Western Norway
2007-2008 Collection of Trichoptera etc. on Tasmania (Australia), Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands
2006 Collection of Trichoptera etc. on New Caledonia
2006 Collection of Trichoptera etc. in Vera Cruz, Mexico
2006 Collection of Trichoptera etc. in Brunei Darussalam
2004 Collection of Lepidoptera in Central, Eastern and Western Norway
2003 Collection and rearing of Lepidoptera at Kongsvoll Biological Station, Dovre-Sunndal

Grants, Awards and Scholarships

2011-2014 Post doctoral fellowship, Research Council of Norway
2011 12th R.J.H. Hintelmann Scientific Award for Zoological Systematics, Friends of the Zoological State Collection, Münich
2010 Y. Sjöstedt travel fund and Hierta-Retzius foundation, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Travel grant
2010 C.E. Boheman's foundation, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Travel grant
2009 Maria and Thure Palm's foundation. Travel grant
2009 Friends of the Swedish Museum of Natural History. Molecular labwork
2007 Ebba and Rene Malaise Foundation. Fieldwork
2006 Friends of the Swedish Museum of Natural History. Fieldwork
2006 Överbys foundation. Fieldwork
2005 50% tuition scholarship for PhD studies, University of Nottingham, School of Genetics (Declined)
2003 Dept. of Biology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Fieldwork


Malaise trap on Malakula, Vanuatu. Photo: M. Espeland.
Malaise trap on Malakula, Vanuatu
Photo: M. Espeland

Peña C, Espeland M. 2013. Diversity dynamics in Nymphalidae butterflies: Effect of phylogenetic uncertainty on diversification rate shift estimates. [preprint arXiv:1302.6294]

Boyle JH, Kaliszewska ZA, Espeland M, Suderman TR, Fleming JE, Heath A & Pierce NE. Accepted. Phylogeny of the the Aphnaeini: unusual diet diversity characterizes the basal lineages of Lycaenidae (Lepidoptera). Systematic Entomology.

Hawlitschek O, Heinrich L, Espeland M & Balke M. 2012. Pleistocene climate change promoted rapid diversification of aquatic invertebrates in South-East Australia. BMC Evolutionary Biology 12: 142 [Link]

Johanson KA, Malm T, Espeland M & Weingartner E. 2012. Phylogeny of the Polycentropodidae (Insecta: Trichoptera) based on protein-coding genes reveal non-monophyletic genera. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 65: 126-135 [Link]

Espeland M & Murienne J. 2011. Diversity dynamics in New Caledonia: towards the end of the museum model? BMC Evolutionary Biology 11: 254 [PDF]

Johanson KA, Malm T, Wells A & Espeland M. The Trichoptera of Vanuatu. Deutsche Entomologische Zeitschrift 58: 279-320 [PDF]

Espeland M & Johanson KA. 2011. A new species of Goera Stephens, 1829 (Goeridae: Trichoptera) from the Solomon Islands. Aquatic Insects 33: 185-189 [PDF]

Espeland M. 2010. Diversification on an ancient Darwinian island: Evolutionary history of caddisflies (Trichoptera) and other organisms on New Caledonia. Doctoral thesis, Stockholm University. ISBN 978-91-7447-114-4 [Thesis introduction PDF]

Espeland M & Johanson KA. 2010. The diversity and radiation of the largest monophyletic animal group on New Caledonia (Trichoptera: Ecnomidae: Agmina). Journal of Evolutionary Biology 23: 2112-2122 [doi:10.1111/j.1420-9101.2010.02072.x] [PDF]

Marianne Espeland in the field. Photo: M. Espeland.
Collecting caddisflies together with local collaborators on Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu
Photo: M. Espeland

Johanson KA & Espeland M. 2010. Description of new Chimarra (Trichoptera: Philopotamidae) species from the Solomon Islands. Zootaxa 2638: 25-43 [PDF]

Espeland M, Irestedt M, Johanson KA, Åkerlund M, Berg J-E & Källersjö M. 2010. Dichlorvos exposure impedes extraction and amplification of DNA from insects in museum collections. Frontiers in Zoology 7: 2 [PDF]

Espeland M & Johanson KA. 2010. The effect of environmental diversification on species diversification in New Caledonian caddisflies (Hydropsychidae: Trichoptera: Insecta). Journal of Biogeography 37: 879-890 [doi:10.1111/j.1365-2699.2009.02263.x] [PDF]

Johanson KA & Espeland M. 2010. Phylogeny of the Ecnomidae (Trichoptera). Cladistics 26: 36-48 [doi:10.1111/j.1096-0031.2009.00276.x] [PDF]

Espeland M, Johanson KA & Hovmöller R. 2008. Early Xanthochorema (Trichoptera, Insecta) radiations in New Caledonia originated on ultrabasic rocks. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 48: 904-917 [doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2008.06.006] [PDF]

Espeland M & Johanson KA. 2008. New species and descriptions of females of the New Caledonian endemic genus Xanthochorema (Trichoptera, Hydrobiosidae). In: Grandcolas P. (Ed.). Zoologia Neocaledonica 6. Biodiversity studies in New Caledonia. Mém. Mus. Nat. Hist. 197: 79-97 [PDF]

Espeland M & Johanson KA. 2007. Revision of the New Caledonian Hydrobiosella (Trichoptera: Philopotamidae) with description of five new species. In: Bueno-Soria J, Barba Álvarez R, Armitage B (eds.): Proceedings of the XIIth International Symposium on Trichoptera June 18-22, 2006, pp. 91-102 [PDF]

Espeland M, Aagaard K, Balstad T & Hindar K. 2007. Ecomorphological and genetic divergence between lowland and montane forms of the Pieris napi species complex. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 92: 727-745 [PDF]


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