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Historical biogeography of two alpine butterflies in the Rocky Mountains: broad-scale concordance and local-scale discordance

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Abstract Aim 

We inferred the phylogeography of the alpine butterfly Colias meadii Edwards (Pieridae) and compared its genetic structure with that of another high elevation, co-distributed butterfly, Parnassius smintheus Doubleday (Papilionidae), to test if the two Rocky Mountain butterflies responded similarly to the palaeoclimatic cycles of the Quaternary. Location 

Specimens were collected from 18 alpine sites in the Rocky Mountains of North America, from southern Colorado to northern Montana. Methods 

We sequenced 867 and 789 nucleotides of cytochrome oxidase I from an average of 19 and 20 individuals for C. meadii and P. smintheus, respectively, from each of the same 18 localities. From the sequence data, we calculated measures of genetic diversity within each population (H, θ), genetic divergence among populations (FST), and tested for geographic structure through an analysis of molecular variance (amova). Population estimates were compared against latitude and between species using a variety of statistical tests. Furthermore, nested clade analysis was implemented to infer historic events underlying the geographic distribution of genetic variation in each species. Then, we compared the number of inferred population events between species using a nonparametric Spearman's rank correlation test. Finally, we ran coalescent simulations on each species’ genealogy to test whether the two species of Lepidoptera fit the same model of population divergence. Results 

Our analyses revealed that: (1) measures of within-population diversity were not correlated with latitude for either species, (2) within-site diversity was not correlated between species, (3) within a species, nearly all populations were genetically isolated, (4) both species exhibited significant and nearly identical partitioning of genetic variation at all hierarchical levels of theamova, including a strong break between populations across the Wyoming Basin, (5) both species experienced similar cycles of expansion and contraction, although fewer were inferred for C. meadii, and (6) data from both species fit a model of three refugia diverging during the Pleistocene. Main conclusions 

While our findings supported a shared response of the two butterfly species to historic climate change across coarse spatial scales, a common pattern was not evident at finer spatial and temporal scales. The shared demographic history of the two species is consistent with an expanding–contracting archipelago model, suggesting that populations persisted across the geographic range throughout the climate cycles, experiencing isolation on ‘sky islands’ during interglacial periods and becoming connected as they migrated down-slope during cool, wet climates.

Keywords: Alpine tundra; Colias meadii; Lepidoptera; Parnassius smintheus; Pleistocene climate cycles; Rocky Mountains; U.S.A; coalescent simulations; statistical phylogeography

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA

Publication date: November 1, 2005


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