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Ecological differentiation between the Sardinian endemic Maniola nurag and the pan-European M. jurtina

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Recently refined evolutionary theories have highlighted that ecological interactions and environmental gradients can play a major role in speciation. This paper reports on a 3-year field study, in which the ecology of two congeneric butterfly species was used to explore and compare the environmental factors determining their spatial distribution. These data are discussed in the context of possible speciation scenarios between the Sardinian populations of Maniola nurag and M. jurtina. M. nurag is endemic to the island of Sardinia, while M. jurtina is widespread over Europe. In Sardinia, the two species are locally sympatric. Mark–release–recapture experiments were combined with measures of environmental variables in 15 1-ha plots, established in areas of potential habitat for the butterflies. Constrained linear models were parameterized from mark–recapture data to estimate both individual (survival and capture probabilities) and population (population size and recruitment) parameters. The two species had similar demography, movement patterns, life history, and behaviour. Population sizes developed in a parabolic fashion from beginning to end of the flight season. Differences included local population size, adult phenology, and habitat requirements. Long-distance movements larger than 1.5 km were observed, suggesting a substantial amount of gene-flow between populations of the endemic as well as the widespread species. Multivariate analyses revealed four main environmental gradients responsible for the abundance of the butterflies in an area. Both species responded similarly to environmental variables. However, each species’s abundance was correlated with a different environmental gradient determined by vegetation cover and structure. When sympatric, the two species responded to subtle differences in microhabitat structure. This might originally have induced their divergence. This study is an example of how empirical field data on population dynamics, dispersal, and habitat characteristics of two sympatric congeners can further our understanding of how species differentiate despite existing gene-flow. © 2006 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2006, 89, 561–574.
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Keywords: Lepidoptera; Nymphalidae; aestivation; butterflies; demography; environmental gradients; mark–release–recapture; movement

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Université Catholique de Louvain, Biodiversity Research Centre, Ecology and Biogeography, Croix du Sud 5, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium 2: EA Evolution Génome Environnement, Case 36, Université de Provence, 3 Place Victor Hugo, F-13331 Marseille Cedex 3, France 3: Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, PO Box 94766, NL-1090 GT Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Publication date: 2006-12-01

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