High dispersal ability and low genetic differentiation in the widespread butterfly species Melanargia galathea
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- Habel, J.C., Junker, M. & Schmitt, T. J Insect Conserv (2010) 14: 467. doi:10.1007/s10841-010-9275-5
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Agricultural intensification caused a fragmentation of flower-rich extensively used meadows which resulted in the reduction of the abundance of species of these habitats. The abundance pattern and the dispersal behaviour of species influence the connectivity of local populations. In this context exchange rates can be directly measured by mark release recapture (MRR) studies and indirectly by genetic analysis. Both approaches are used in our study in a comparative way. As a test species to investigate the influence of habitat interconnectivity on a local and regional scale, we selected the butterfly Melanargia galathea (Lepidoptera, Nymphalidae), a widely distributed species, which is common on flower-rich meadows in our study area in western Germany. We marked 3,175 individuals of four neighbouring sites in a mark-release-recapture study and analysed 18 allozyme loci for 644 individuals sampled over 17 sites. Only 3.3% of the total genetic variance was found among samples, thus supporting the detected between-patch movements. Both approaches revealed a high exchange rate among local populations. Moderate between- and high within-patch movements were recorded by MRR analysis, dependent on the geographical distance. The two analytical tools showed high estimated effective population sizes for all populations. In the light of conservation biology, the combination of the MRR and allozyme data support the assumption that high dispersal ability and habitat interconnectivity countervail genetic differentiation and enable the maintenance of a high level of genetic differentiation.