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Habitat choice precedes host plant choice - niche separation in a species pair of a generalist and a specialist butterfly
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7303-5632
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7818-7045
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2008 (English)In: Oikos, Vol. 117, no 9, 1337-1344 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The sister species Leptidea reali and L. sinapis have partitioned their niches differently in different parts of their sympatric distribution. In Spain and France L. sinapis is a widespread generalist whereas L. reali is specialized on high altitude open areas. Interestingly, the reverse is true in Ireland and the Czech Republic where L. reali is widespread and L. sinapis specialized on meadows. In Sweden, L. reali is a habitat specialist confined to meadows, whereas L. sinapis is a habitat generalist also inhabiting forests. Ultimately, the geographic mosaic of niche separation is the result of local processes in each contact zone or a secondary effect of the host plant distribution, if L. sinapis and L. reali prefer different legume host plants. Hence, in Sweden L. sinapis might utilize the forest habitat either due to a wider habitat preference or due to a wider host plant preference than L. reali. Studies of wild butterflies showed that L. sinapis laid 26% of their eggs on forest-associated legumes compared to 6% in L. reali, although laboratory experiments showed that both species had virtually identical host plant preferences strongly preferring the meadow-associated legume Lathyrus pratensis. Furthermore, flight duration tests in a variety of temperatures demonstrated a between-species difference; L. sinapis females reached their flight optimum at a lower temperature than L. reali females. The lower L. sinapis flight temperature optimum is most probably a secondary effect due to habitat-specific selection, and therefore a consequence rather than the cause of the habitat partitioning. The finding that habitat choice precedes host plant choice suggests that the European geographic mosaic of niche separation, with L. sinapis and L. reali shifting habitat specialist/generalist roles, is not caused by rigid between-species differences in a related niche parameter, but instead is a result of local processes within each secondary contact zone.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Lund: Department of Ecology, Lund university , 2008. Vol. 117, no 9, 1337-1344 p.
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-22034ISI: 000258410200007OAI: diva2:188561
Available from: 2008-12-11 Created: 2008-12-11 Last updated: 2014-10-28Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The evolutionary ecology of niche separation: Studies on the sympatric butterflies Leptidea sinapis and Leptidea reali
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The evolutionary ecology of niche separation: Studies on the sympatric butterflies Leptidea sinapis and Leptidea reali
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Studies of ecology and evolution have become largely integrated, and increasing attention is paid to the role of ecology for speciation and post speciation divergence. In this thesis I have applied an in-depth approach studying the ecology of a butterfly species pair; the morphologically virtually identical sister-species, the Wood white (Leptidea sinapis) and Reál’s wood white (Leptidea reali). PAPER I showed a quite deep between-species division in sequence data from mitochondrial DNA. The reuniting in secondary contact zones might in contrast be quite recent, as males of L. sinapis and L. reali cannot distinguish between con- and heterospecific females (PAPER II) and since the between-species niche separation is incomplete (PAPER III, IV, V). Furthermore, the two species have partitioned their niches in different directions in different European regions as the two species shift habitat generalist and specialist roles throughout their joint distribution (PAPER III). However, the local niche partitioning has resulted in species-specific adaptations in terms of propensity to enter diapause (PAPER III, V, VI), host plant acceptance (PAPER V), and in ability to use host plant as cue for the decision to enter diapause or direct development (PAPER VI). The habitat separation is decoupled from host plant preference, at least in south central Sweden (PAPER IV), which implies that selection for niche partitioning has acted on habitat preferences directly and not via divergent selection on host plant preference. Finally, there is a high cost of appearing at a site where the other species is in the majority as much time (PAPER VII) and energy (PAPER II) are devoted to court heterospecific females or being courted by heterospecific males (PAPER VII). Hence, selection likely favours habitat specialisation in the rarest species in each region, and the direction of niche separation might simply be decided by which species that reached an area first. The species that first colonises an area would then most likely become a generalist filling up all suitable habitats, whereas the second invader might be forced to specialise, as the cost of being rare is too large everywhere but in the core population. This thesis highlights the role of ecology, and especially of local processes, for post-speciation selection and character displacement.


Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, 2009. 44 p.
Lepidoptera, ecological character displacement, reproductive isolation, species discrimination, habitat, host plant, life history, sexual selection, female choice
National Category
Biological Sciences
Research subject
Animal Ecology
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-30822 (URN)978-91-7155-964-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2009-11-27, Magnélisalen, Kemiska övningslaboratoriet, Svante Arrhenius väg 16 B, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
At the time of the doctoral defense, the folowing papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1:Manuscript. Paper 6:Manuscript. Paper 7:ManuscriptAvailable from: 2009-11-05 Created: 2009-10-27 Last updated: 2014-10-13Bibliographically approved

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Friberg, MagneOlofsson, MartinBerger, DavidKarlsson, BengtWiklund, Christer
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