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Proc Biol Sci. 2005 Jun 22;272(1569):1257-63.

Does habitat fragmentation affect temperature-related life-history traits? A laboratory test with a woodland butterfly.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Stockholm, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden.


Habitat fragmentation may change local climatic conditions leading to altered selection regimes for life-history traits in small ectotherms, including several insects. We investigated temperature-related performance in terms of fitness among populations of the woodland butterfly Pararge aegeria (L.) originating from populations of a closed, continuous woodland landscape versus populations of an open, highly fragmented agricultural landscape in central Belgium. Female fecundity and longevity were evaluated in a temperature-gradient experiment. As predicted, females of woodland landscape origin reached higher maximum daily fecundity and lifetime number of eggs than did agricultural landscape females at low ambient temperatures, but this reversed at high ambient temperature. Egg weight decreased with temperature, and eggs of woodland butterflies were smaller. Contrary to what is generally assumed, remaining thorax mass was a better predictor of lifetime reproductive output than was abdomen mass. Since we used the F2 generation from wild-caught females reared under common garden conditions, the observed effects are likely to rely on intrinsic, heritable variation. Our results suggest that differential selection regimes associated with different landscapes intervene by intraspecific variation in the response of a butterfly to variation in ambient temperature, and may thus be helpful when making predictions of future impacts on how wild populations respond to environmental conditions under a global change scenario, with increasing temperatures and fragmented landscapes.

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