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Members of the diverse butterfly families Nymphalidae (brush-footed butterflies) and Riodinidae (metalmarks) have reduced first thoracic limbs and only use two pairs of legs for walking. In order to address questions about the detailed morphology and evolutionary origins of these reduced limbs, the three thoracic limbs of 13 species of butterflies representing all six butterfly families were examined and measured, and ancestral limb sizes were reconstructed for males and females separately. Differences in limb size across butterflies involve changes in limb segment size rather than number of limb segments. Reduction of the first limb in both nymphalids and riodinids appears particularly extensive in the femur, but the evolution of these reduced limbs is suggested to be a convergent evolutionary event. Possible developmental differences as well as ecological factors driving the evolution of reduced limbs are discussed.
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