Cryptic speciation

Cryptic speciation is a biological process that results in a group of species (which, by definition, cannot interbreed) that contain individuals that are morpholigically identical to each other but belong to different species.

A good example of cryptic speciation is that of the Two-barred Flasher butterfly (Astraptes fulgerator). Despite adult butterflies having an identical appearance DNA analysis has suggested that there are at least three different species of this butterfly.

A photograph of an adult Two-barred Flasher butterfly (_Astraptes fulgerator_)

A photograph of an adult Two-barred Flasher butterfly (Astraptes fulgerator).
Photograph by Anne Toal licensed under Creative Commons.

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