Museum samples of extinct butterfly populations show how populations rise and fall

February 22, 2016

Researchers at the University of Helsinki have analysed genetic variation in the now extinct populations of the Glanville fritillary butterfly in south-west Finland using old museum samples. The populations used to live in highly fragmented habitat where local populations went frequently extinct and new ones were established by dispersing butterflies.

The new results show that such extinction-colonisation dynamics, called metapopulation dynamics, increased the rate of dispersal and colonisation of butterflies, an example of rapid contemporary evolutionary change.

Rapid environmental change continues to cause unprecedented losses in biodiversity. The new results show that species may become adapted to increasingly fragmented environments through natural selection on dispersal. In the present case, however, so much habitat was lost in the 20th century on the research area that the evolutionary change was not sufficient to rescue the species from extinction.

The study highlights the value of old museum collections as a resource for studying how populations and species respond to a rapidly changing world.

"Using museum samples allows us to go back in time to see how rapid environmental change affects the evolution of populations. This is particularly important for populations that have now gone extinct," says the lead author, Dr Toby Fountain from the Metapopulation Research Centre, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences.
-end-


University of Helsinki

Related Biodiversity Articles from Brightsurf:

Biodiversity hypothesis called into question
How can we explain the fact that no single species predominates?

Using the past to maintain future biodiversity
New research shows that safeguarding species and ecosystems and the benefits they provide for society against future climatic change requires effective solutions which can only be formulated from reliable forecasts.

Changes in farming urgent to rescue biodiversity
Humans depend on farming for their survival but this activity takes up more than one-third of the world's landmass and endangers 62% of all threatened species.

Predicting the biodiversity of rivers
Biodiversity and thus the state of river ecosystems can now be predicted by combining environmental DNA with hydrological methods, researchers from the University of Zurich and Eawag have found.

About the distribution of biodiversity on our planet
Large open-water fish predators such as tunas or sharks hunt for prey more intensively in the temperate zone than near the equator.

Bargain-hunting for biodiversity
The best bargains for conserving some of the world's most vulnerable salamanders and other vertebrate species can be found in Central Texas and the Appalachians, according to new conservation tools developed at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Researchers solve old biodiversity mystery
The underlying cause for why some regions are home to an extremely large number of animal species may be found in the evolutionary adaptations of species, and how they limit their dispersion to specific natural habitats.

Biodiversity offsetting is contentious -- here's an alternative
A new approach to compensate for the impact of development may be an effective alternative to biodiversity offsetting -- and help nations achieve international biodiversity targets.

Biodiversity yields financial returns
Farmers could increase their revenues by increasing biodiversity on their land.

Biodiversity and wind energy
The location and operation of wind energy plants are often in direct conflict with the legal protection of endangered species.

Read More: Biodiversity News and Biodiversity Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.