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Metapopulation structure and movements in five species of checkerspot butterflies

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We studied the patterns and rates of migration among habitat patches for five species of checkerspot butterflies (Lepidoptera: Melitaeini) in Finland: Euphydryas aurinia, E. maturna, Melitaea cinxia, M. diamina and M. athalia. We applied the virtual migration (VM) model to mark-release-recapture data collected from multiple populations. The model includes parameters describing migration and survival rates and how they depend on the areas and connectivities of habitat patches. The number of individuals captured varied from 73 to 1,123, depending on species and sex, and the daily recapture probabilities varied between 0.09–0.52. The VM model fitted the data quite well. The results show that the five species are broadly similar in their movement rates and patterns, though, e.g. E. maturna tends to move shorter distances than the other species. There is no indication of any phylogenetic component in the parameter values. The parameter values estimated for each species suggest that a large percentage (80–90%) of migration events were successful in the landscapes that were studied. The area of the habitat patch had a substantial effect on emigration and immigration rates, such that butterflies were more likely to leave small than large patches and large patches were more likely than small patches to receive immigrants.

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Wahlberg, N., Klemetti, T., Selonen, V. et al. Metapopulation structure and movements in five species of checkerspot butterflies. Oecologia 130, 33–43 (2002).

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