, Volume 164, Issue 4, pp 971–980 | Cite as

Changing demography and dispersal behaviour: ecological adaptations in an alpine butterfly

  • Marius JunkerEmail author
  • Stefan Wagner
  • Patrick Gros
  • Thomas Schmitt
Population ecology - Original Paper


High mountain ecosystems are extreme habitats for all organisms and therefore demand specific adaptations. In this context, we studied the ecology of the butterfly Euphydryas aurinia debilis in the High Tauern (Austria) and compared the obtained data against the ecology of the species in lower elevation habitats. We performed mark-release-recapture studies over the entire flight periods (end of June to end of July) in 2007 and 2008 to analyse the fundamental ecological parameters of a population. The demography of males and females was similar in both years, and no indication of typical protandry was detected. We observed a generally low dispersal of the individuals in both years, but males dispersed significantly more than females in 2008; this finding of low vagility was supported by allozyme analyses. Furthermore, butterflies survived periods of several days of continuously closed snow cover without any indication of increased mortality rates. In these three traits, this alpine population of E. aurinia apparently has ecological and physiological adaptations to the extreme requirements of high-altitude habitats and strongly deviates from the lower elevation populations.


Euphydryas aurinia Butterflies Ecological adaptation Mark-release-recapture Protandry 



We acknowledge the DFG for financing the scholarship of Marius Junker in the graduate school (Verbesserung von Normsetzung und Normanwendung im integrierten Umweltschutz durch rechts- und naturwissenschaftliche Kooperation; no. 1319) at the University of Trier, and the Hohe Tauern National Park for the permission to perform our studies within the national park. Furthermore, we thank Großglockner Hochalpenstraße for financial support of the genetic analyses and for the permission to freely use the alpine road, and the Haus der Natur, Museum für Natur und Technik for accommodation in the Wilfried Haslauer Haus research station during the field studies.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marius Junker
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stefan Wagner
    • 1
  • Patrick Gros
    • 2
  • Thomas Schmitt
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiogeographyTrier University, Faculty of Geography / GeosciencesTrierGermany
  2. 2.Haus der Natur, Museum für Natur und TechnikSalzburgAustria

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