Nucleotide sequence data from a segment of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) gene, known as the barcode segment, were used to examine phylogenetic relationships and systematics of buckeye butterflies (Nymphalidae: Nymphalinae: Junonia) from the New World, with emphasis on taxa from western North America. Three nominal species have been recognized for North America, J. evarete (Cramer), J. genoveva (Cramer), and J. coenia Hübner, with additional species recently proposed for the West Indies and northern South America. The distinctive Andean buckeye, J. vestina C. Felder & R. Felder, along with J. evarete and J. genoveva, are also components of the South American fauna. With the exception of J. vestina, butterflies comprising the New World Junonia have had a confused taxonomic history, and species assignments are often problematic. Our results show that the barcode segment resolves the two major clades of New World Junonia, referred to here as clades A and B, with similar high support seen in an earlier phylogenetic study using both mitochondrial and nuclear genes. Within clade A, J. vestina resolved in a basal position to J. evarete from South America and the Caribbean. The data further suggest that species assignments in some populations of New World Junonia clustering in clade B (J. coenia J. genoveva) need to be reevaluated. DNA barcodes, although failing to resolve all recognized species and subspecies level taxa of New World Junonia, probably owing to relatively recent divergences, can provide valuable tools for identifying the two major lineages, and when used in conjunction with morphological, ecological, behavioral and life history information can provide insights into the taxonomy and evolution of this difficult group.
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