Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 411–422 | Cite as

Population demography of the endangered large blue butterfly Maculinea arion in Europe

  • Márta Osváth-Ferencz
  • Simona Bonelli
  • Piotr Nowicki
  • László Peregovits
  • László Rákosy
  • Marcin Sielezniew
  • Agata Kostro-Ambroziak
  • Izabela Dziekańska
  • Ádám KőrösiEmail author


Demographic parameters such as survival, sex ratio and abundance can profoundly affect the viability of populations and thus are of primary importance in species of conservation concern. Although numerous studies have been published on certain aspects of the ecology and evolution of the endangered Large Blue butterfly Maculinea arion, there is still a lack of detailed knowledge on its populations’ demography. Moreover, M. arion populates a variety of xerothermic habitats throughout its European range using various food plants and host ants, which leads to complications in its conservation. Our aim was to estimate demographic parameters of M. arion populations in different parts of its European range. Detailed mark-recapture sampling was conducted on populations in four different countries. We often found that daily apparent survival probability declined with increasing age of individuals, but there was no difference between male and female survival. In smaller populations, the sex ratio was rather female-biased. Our most interesting result was the lack of protandry in some populations that might be a consequence of selection against reproductive asynchrony in small populations or a polyandrous mating system. The perfect coincidence of male and female phenology can positively affect the effective population size, because the lack of reproductive asynchrony increases the chance of male–female encounters. Abundance of the studied populations ranged between 100 and 1,600 individuals, smaller populations were on the verge of extinction. Habitat of the threatened small populations was either overgrazed or abandoned, while habitat of larger, stable populations was lightly grazed.


Age-dependent survival Distributional range Mark-recapture Protandry Sex ratio 



We are grateful to Joanna Chołostiakow-Gromek, Ferenc Kassai, Paul Kirkland, Aleksandra Mieczkowska, Gyöngyvér Molnár, Henrietta Onodi, Gergely Osváth, Noémi Örvössy, Szabolcs Sáfián and Michał Włostowski for their help in fieldwork. We thank Annamária Fenesi for her help in the characterization of the vegetation of the Romanian study site. We are indebted to Zsolt Czekes for his help in manuscript preparation, and Jacqueline Loos and Bálint Markó for discussions. Tibor-Csaba Vizauer offered important information regarding the Romanian study site for which we are thankful. M.O-F.’s work was supported by the grant of the Romanian National Authority for Scientific Research and Innovation, CNCS–UEFISCDI, project number PN-II-RU-TE-2014-4-1930 and by the “Dr. Verestóy Attila Foundation”. Furthermore, the study was also funded by the Polish National Science Centre Grant DEC-2013/11/B/NZ8/00912 and the EU ‘MacMan’ project (EVK2-CT-2001-00126).

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 100 KB)
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Márta Osváth-Ferencz
    • 1
    • 3
  • Simona Bonelli
    • 2
  • Piotr Nowicki
    • 3
  • László Peregovits
    • 4
  • László Rákosy
    • 5
  • Marcin Sielezniew
    • 6
  • Agata Kostro-Ambroziak
    • 6
  • Izabela Dziekańska
    • 7
  • Ádám Kőrösi
    • 8
    Email author
  1. 1.Hungarian Department of Biology and EcologyBabeș-Bolyai UniversityCluj-NapocaRomania
  2. 2.Department of Life Sciences and Systems BiologyTurin UniversityTurinItaly
  3. 3.Institute of Environmental SciencesJagiellonian UniversityKrakówPoland
  4. 4.Department of ZoologyHungarian Natural History MuseumBudapestHungary
  5. 5.Department of Taxonomy and EcologyBabeș-Bolyai UniversityCluj-NapocaRomania
  6. 6.Department of Invertebrate Zoology, Institute of BiologyUniversity of BialystokBiałystokPoland
  7. 7.Association for Butterfly Conservation (TOM)WarszawaPoland
  8. 8.MTA-ELTE-MTM, Ecology Research GroupBudapestHungary

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