Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 1237–1253 | Cite as

A molecular phylogenetic analysis of Speyeria and its implications for the management of the threatened Speyeria zerene hippolyta

  • Anne McHugh
  • Paulette Bierzychudek
  • Christina Greever
  • Tessa Marzulla
  • Richard Van Buskirk
  • Greta Binford


The genetic structure of lineages can provide important information for delineating “evolutionarily significant units” (ESUs) for conservation, and for planning actions to protect and restore taxa threatened with extinction. Speyeria zerene hippolyta, the Oregon silverspot butterfly, is a U.S.A. federally threatened subspecies that is the focus of considerable conservation effort, but whose evolutionary relationships with other Speyeria taxa are not well-understood. We conducted a genetic analysis of nine Speyeria species and 25 subspecies from western U.S.A., using both mitochondrial and nuclear markers. Our goal was to determine whether such data supported (a) S. z. hippolyta’s designation as an ESU, and (b) the current morphologically-based taxonomy of Speyeria spp. Our data for S. z. hippolyta were equivocal; while nuclear markers resolved all these individuals into a single clade, mtDNA data suggested the existence of two clades. Aside from S. cybele, which was consistently supported as monophyletic, our data provided little support for most of the species currently recognized for western U.S. Speyeria, including S. zerene, and even less for the many subspecies designations. These genetic findings stand in contrast to the morphological differences recognized by experts, and suggest a relatively recent origin for many of these taxa. Two of 66 individuals screened for Wolbachia infection tested positive for this symbiont. Our results provide no persuasive evidence that S. z. hippolyta should lose its status as an ESU, but they have important implications for ongoing management actions such as population augmentation.


ESU Evolutionarily significant unit Lepidoptera Oregon silverspot butterfly Species delineation Wolbachia 



We benefited from Paul Hammond’s and David McCorkle’s many years of studying Speyeria in the field and laboratory, and the generosity with which they have shared their time, samples, knowledge, and insights. Other individuals and institutions providing materials or other assistance include Andrew Warren and the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity; Chris Marshall, Dana Ross and the Oregon State University Arthropod Collection; Niklas Wahlberg; Gary Albright and the Tillamook County Pioneer Museum; Mike Patterson; Anne Warner of United States Fish and Wildlife Service; Debbie Pickering of The Nature Conservancy; and Mary Jo Anderson and David Shepherdson at the Oregon Zoo. We are grateful for the field assistance of Charlie Blackmar, Megan Siefert, Ryan Essman, Amanda Delzer, Steven Levitte, Becca Salesky, Terry Stratton, Marrissa Hirt, and Beka Feathers, and for the advice and assistance of Pamela Zobel-Thropp, Elise Maxwell and Wendy McLennan. Work at Lewis & Clark College was generously supported by Oregon Zoo’s Future for Wildlife Program, James Dunford, and Lewis & Clark College. Data collection and initial analysis by RVB was supported by the Center for Population Biology, University of California, Davis.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne McHugh
    • 1
    • 3
  • Paulette Bierzychudek
    • 1
  • Christina Greever
    • 1
    • 4
  • Tessa Marzulla
    • 1
    • 5
  • Richard Van Buskirk
    • 2
  • Greta Binford
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyLewis & Clark CollegePortlandUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental StudiesPacific UniversityForest GroveUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA
  4. 4.University of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  5. 5.Oregon Health and Sciences UniversityPortlandUSA

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