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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Gene flow rise with habitat fragmentation in the bog fritillary butterfly (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae)

Gabriel Nève1*, Bernard Barascud1, Henri Descimon2 and Michel Baguette3

Author Affiliations

1 Institut Méditerranéen d'Ecologie et de Paléoécologie, UMR CNRS 6116, Case 36, Université de Provence, 3 Place Victor Hugo, F-13331 Marseille Cedex 3, France

2 2 Rue Rougemont, 13012 Marseille, France

3 Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Département d'Ecologie et de Gestion de la Biodiversité, CNRS-MNHN UMR 7179, Avenue du Petit-Château 4, F-91800 Brunoy, France

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2008, 8:84  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-84

Published: 17 March 2008

Abstract

Background

The main components of the spatial genetic structure of the populations are neighbourhood size and isolation by distance. These may be inferred from the allele frequencies across a series of populations within a region. Here, the spatial population structure of Proclossiana eunomia was investigated in two mountainous areas of southern Europe (Asturias, Spain and Pyrenees, France) and in two areas of intermediate elevation (Morvan, France and Ardennes, Belgium).

Results

A total of eight polymorphic loci were scored by allozyme electrophoresis, revealing a higher polymorphism in the populations of southern Europe than in those of central Europe.

Isolation by distance effect was much stronger in the two mountain ranges (Pyrenees and Asturias) than in the two areas of lower elevation (Ardennes and Morvan). By contrast, the neighbourhood size estimates were smaller in the Ardennes and in the Morvan than in the two high mountain areas, indicating more common movements between neighbouring patches in the mountains than in plains.

Conclusion

Short and long dispersal events are two phenomena with distinct consequences in the population genetics of natural populations. The differences in level of population differentiation within each the four regions may be explained by change in dispersal in lowland recently fragmented landscapes: on average, butterflies disperse to a shorter distance but the few ones which disperse long distance do so more efficiently. Habitat fragmentation has evolutionary consequences exceeding by far the selection of dispersal related traits: the balance between local specialisation and gene flow would be perturbed, which would modify the extent to which populations are adapted to heterogeneous environments.