, Volume 79, Issue 4, pp 452–457 | Cite as

Host specificity among Maculinea butterflies in Myrmica ant nests

  • J. A. Thomas
  • G. W. Elmes
  • J. C. Wardlaw
  • M. Woyciechowski
Original Papers


Ecological studies have been made of all 5 European species of Maculinea. These confirm that M. nausithous and M. rebeli live underground in Myrmica ant nests for 10 months of the year, as has long been known for the other 3 species. The main discovery was that each Maculinea species depends on a single, and different, host species of Myrmica. This specificity contradicts previous papers and scientific reviews of the relationship between Maculinea and ants. Therefore, early records are re-examined and 3 reasons are given to explain why most are misleading when applied to wild populations. Dependence on a single, rather than any, species of Myrmica explains why Maculinea populations exist in only a small minority of biotopes where their foodplants and Myrmica ants abound. It also explains the puzzling disappearance of Maculinea populations from apparently suitable sites. The discovery that M. alcon and M. rebeli depend on separate species of Myrmica that are not even closely related strengthens the argument that these butterflies are good species.

Key words

Host specificity Butterfly/ant relationships Maculinea Myrmica 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. A. Thomas
    • 1
  • G. W. Elmes
    • 1
  • J. C. Wardlaw
    • 1
  • M. Woyciechowski
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Terrestrial EcologyFurzebrook Research StationWarehamUK

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