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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

Wing morphology of the butterfly Coenonympha arcania in Europe: Traces of both historical isolation in glacial refugia and current adaptation

Cassel-Lundhagen, Anna; Schmitt, Thomas; Wahlberg, Niklas; Sarvasova, Lenka; Konvicka, Martin; Ryrholm, Nils; Kanuch, Peter


In this study, we examined the evolutionary outcome of and interplay between historic isolation and current selection pressures on traits more or less closely connected to fitness in the Pearly Heath butterfly (Coenonympha arcania) across its range in Europe. We hypothesized that a trait mean is more related to historic events if it has low connection to fitness, while a trait more closely connected with fitness is expected to have a mean that relates more to current selection pressures. In order to test this, we collected 322 butterflies from across the species range in Europe and measured five wing traits relating to size and color patterns. To infer a phylogeographic history for each individual, we sequenced a 594 bp fragment of the COI gene. The morphological data were then analyzed in relation to selected climatic variables and the history of individuals to disentangle which factors best correlated with morphological variation. The results supported our hypothesis in that wing sizes correlated with summer precipitation but not with its inferred location during the last glaciation. Eyespot position, on the other hand, correlated with the history of individuals but not with the analyzed climatic indicators. The sizes of the black spot and the white band, two traits that were expected to have intermediate selection pressure, were associated with both history and current conditions. Thus, this study illustrates the fascinating interplay between events and processes that lead to a specific evolutionary outcome.


adaptation; clinal variation; environmental factors; Lepidoptera; phylogeography

Published in

Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research
2020, Volume: 58, number: 4, pages: 929-943
Publisher: WILEY

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Biological Systematics
    Evolutionary Biology

    Publication identifier


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