Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 473–485

Environmental stress and quantitative genetic variation in butterfly wing characteristics

Original Paper


Butterfly wing characteristics are extensively used as model system in studies of development, quantitative genetics and phenotypic plasticity. In spite of its evolutionary relevance, however, the effect of stress on the expression of genetic variation itself has only rarely been studied. In this paper, we explore genetic variation of wing characteristics of the Speckled wood Pararge aegeria along a host plant drought stress gradient. Forewing area, basal and distal degree of melanization and the area of five yellow wing spots were measured. We found an increase in (additive) genetic variation in degree of melanization at higher drought stress, and a similar, yet non-significant, relationship for forewing size. As a result, both the upper limits of the narrow-sense heritability and the coefficient of additive genetic variation of wing size and melanization increased with drought stress. Patterns for the different yellow wing spots were less consistent, suggesting trait-specificity in the relationships between genetic variation and environmental stress.


Environmental stress Genetic variation Canalization Butterfly wing pattern Pararge aegeria 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. Talloen
    • 1
  • S. Van Dongen
    • 1
  • H. Van Dyck
    • 2
  • L. Lens
    • 3
  1. 1.Group of Evolutionary Ecology, Department of BiologyUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium
  2. 2.Behavioural Ecology and Conservation Biology Group, Ecology and Biogeography UnitCatholic University of Louvain (UCL)Louvain-la-NeuveBelgium
  3. 3.Terrestrial Ecology Unit, Department of BiologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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