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Host plant induced larval decision-making in a habitat/host plant generalist butterfly
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4719-487X
2010 (English)In: Ecology, ISSN 0012-9658, E-ISSN 1939-9170, Vol. 91, 15-21 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Phenotypic plasticity can be a passive response to fluctuating environmental conditions or an active and presumably adaptive (evolved) response selected for in different environments. Here we ask if the larval decision to enter diapause when reared on a host plant associated with a colder habitat is an active or a passive response to host plant quality or suitability. We compare plasticity in larval propensity to enter diapause of the habitat generalist butterfly Leptidea sinapis and the meadow specialist Leptidea reali in a range of temperatures and long daylength on a forest plant, Lathyrus linifolius, and a meadow-associated plant, Lathyrus pratensis. The warmer meadow habitat promotes direct development whereas the colder forest habitat is conducive to diapause. Larvae of L. sinapis had a higher propensity to enter diapause when reared on the forest plant L. linifolius across all temperatures. Conversely, the propensity of L. reali to enter diapause was consistently lower and did not differ between host plants. Larval growth rates were similar between and within butterfly species and between host plants. Hence, we conclude that larval pathway decision-making in L. sinapis is an active response mediated by information from their host plants.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. Vol. 91, 15-21 p.
Keyword [en]
Habitat, host plant, generalist, specialist, phenotypic plasticity, adaptation, Lepidoptera: Leptidea, polyspecialist, growth rate, development, life history, Lathyrus
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-30791DOI: 10.1890/09-0328.1OAI: diva2:274093
Swedish Research Council
Available from: 2009-10-27 Created: 2009-10-27 Last updated: 2014-10-13Bibliographically 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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