Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 1–18 | Cite as

Niche separation in space and time between two sympatric sister species—a case of ecological pleiotropy

  • Magne FribergEmail author
  • Martin Bergman
  • Jaakko Kullberg
  • Niklas Wahlberg
  • Christer Wiklund
Original Paper


We investigate the niche separation in space and time between the Palearctic sister species Leptidea sinapis and L. reali (Lepidoptera, Pieridae) in central Sweden. Using field sampling, we show that L. reali is a habitat specialist confined to meadows, whereas L. sinapis is a habitat generalist also inhabiting forests. This difference in habitat utilization was corroborated by experimental release of laboratory-reared L. sinapis and L. reali in two adjacent forest and meadow habitats during their natural flight period; virtually all recaptured L. reali that were released in the forest were later caught in the meadow, whereas L. sinapis shifted equally often from meadow to forest as in the opposite direction. In the field, both species fly in May–June, but L. reali appears on average a week earlier in spring and has a substantial second generation in July, whereas L. sinapis is practically univoltine. When overwintered pupae were incubated under identical conditions in the laboratory, females did, however, not differ in phenology, and L. sinapis males actually emerged earlier than L. reali males. When larvae were reared at 23°C on the host plant Lotus corniculatus at a range of daylengths, both species produced a substantial proportion of directly developing individuals at an 18.5 h daylength or longer. When reared at 23°C and a 22 h daylength, L. reali showed an overall higher propensity to develop directly than L. sinapis on plant species originating from both the meadow and the forest habitat. Both Leptidea species showed a lower propensity to enter direct development on forest associated plants than on meadow associated plants. Hence, we suggest that the difference in phenology and voltinism between L. sinapis and L. reali is largely the result of environmentally implemented ecological pleiotropic effects caused by the between-species difference in habitat preference.


Temporal and spatial niche-partitioning Geographic mosaic Secondary contact Diapause Direct development Host plants 



We thank Bertil Borg, Sören Nylin, Niklas Janz, Erik I. Svensson, Henri Descimon and two anonymous reviewers for useful comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript. We are also thankful to Arjen Biere and Olof Leimar for statistical advice and to Helena Larsdotter Mellström and Carlos Peña, for their help during the laboratory work. The study was funded by The Swedish Research Council to Christer Wiklund.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Magne Friberg
    • 1
    Email author
  • Martin Bergman
    • 1
  • Jaakko Kullberg
    • 2
  • Niklas Wahlberg
    • 1
    • 3
  • Christer Wiklund
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  2. 2.Department of Entomology, Finnish Museum of Natural HistoryUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  3. 3.Laboratory of Genetics, Department of BiologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland

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