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The genetic consequence of differing ecological demands of a generalist and a specialist Butterfly species

Auteurs : Habel (Jan Christian), Meyer (Marc) et Schmitt (Thomas Haubrich)

Année de publication : 2009
Publication : Biodiversity and Conservation
Volume : 18
Fascicule : 7
Pagination : 1895-1908

Résumé :

Many studies aim at testing the impact of recent fragmentation on the genetic diversity and connectivity of populations, while some species do exist naturally in fragmented landscapes because of their habitat requirements. Therefore, it is important to look at the genetic signatures of species occurring in naturally fragmented landscapes in order to disentangle the effect of fragmentation from the effect of habitat requirements. We selected two Nymphalid butterflies for this purpose. While Melanargia galathea is a common butterfly in flower-rich meadows, Melitaea aurelia is closely connected to calcareous grasslands, thus being historically fragmented due to its ecological demands. For the analysis of the genetic response on these opposed patterns, we analysed 18 allozyme loci for 789 individuals (399 individuals of M. galathea and 390 individuals of M. aurelia) in a western German study region with adjacent areas in Luxemburg and northeastern France. Both species showed similarly low genetic differentiations among local populations (M. galathea: F ST 3.3%; M. aurelia: F ST 3.6%), both combined with a moderate level of inbreeding. Isolation-by-distance analysis revealed a significant correlation for both species with similar amounts of explained variances (M. galathea: r 2 = 27.8%; M. aurelia: r 2 = 28.5%). Most parameters of genetic diversity were higher in M. galathea than in M. aurelia, but the latter species had a considerably higher amount of rare or locally restricted genes; the differing ecological demands are thus reflected in these differences. Both species thus seem to be genetically well suited to their respective ecological requirements. In the light of conservation genetics, we deduce that highly fragmented populations are not necessarily prone to extinction. The extinction risk might be linked to the life history of an organism and its population genetic structure. SN 0960-3115 UT ZOOREC:ZOOR14512073891