10.1007/s00442-014-3016-5

Development, survival, and phenotypic plasticity in anthropogenic landscapes: trade-offs between offspring quantity and quality in the nettle-feeding peacock butterfly

Abstract

Habitats selected for development may have important fitness consequences. This is relevant within the framework of niche shifts in human-dominated landscapes. Currently, the peacock butterfly (Aglais io) occurs ubiquitously, covering many habitat types, whereas its distribution used to be much more restricted. Indeed, its host plant (stinging nettle Urtica dioica) was limited to natural forest gaps on relatively nitrogen-rich soil, but due to land use changes and eutrophication, host plants are now quasi-omnipresent in Western Europe. In order to assess the impact of specific anthropogenic habitat types on host plant quality and environmental conditions for phenotypic trait values, an experiment was conducted in woodlands, field margins, and urban gardens. Larval development was studied in field enclosures, and adult traits were analyzed to test predicted effects of warmer and more nitrogen-rich conditions in field margins compared to woodlands and urban gardens. Survival to the adult stage was highest in woodlands and lowest in field margins, and whilst development time did not differ amongst habitat types, butterflies that developed in field margins were larger and had higher lipid content and wing loadings than conspecifics from woodlands and urban gardens. Nettles in field margins provided warmer microclimates. However, and contrary to predictions, the nitrogen level within host plant leaves was highest in woodlands. Hence, anthropogenic landscapes may pose a conflict for choosing what is ultimately the best breeding habitat, as survival was highest in woodlands (followed by urban gardens), but adults with highest fitness predictions were produced in field margins (and secondarily urban gardens)

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oai:dial.uclouvain.be:boreal:150807Last time updated on 5/14/2016

This paper was published in DIAL UCLouvain.

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