Low genetic diversity of a high mountain burnet moth species in the Pyrenees
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The burnet moth Zygaena anthyllidis, endemic to the high elevations of the Pyrenees, is vulnerable to land-use. In order to identify conservation priorities based on an assessment of genetic diversity within populations and gene flow among populations, we examined Z. anthyllidis’ genetic variability and differentiation based on allozyme electrophoresis from seven populations scattered across its entire range. In comparison to other mountain Lepidoptera, the populations studied exhibit a low level of genetic diversity. Remarkable between-population differentiation (FST = 0.053), the presence of private alleles, and the lack of significant isolation-by-distance pattern characterises the genetic make-up of the species. We interpreted the pattern of genetic differentiation as a consequence of low dispersal power in combination with insufficient landscape connectivity. Ongoing land-use change might reinforce genetic differentiation due to habitat fragmentation and additionally affect negatively allozyme variability at shifting range margins, i.e. the capacity to adapt to changing environments. We therefore suggest creating a network of suitable habitats at the landscape scale to facilitate genetic exchange and to conserve the species’ overall genetic variability.