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Butterfly study reveals traits and genes associated with establishment of new populations
Date:3/28/2011

d to understand better the genes and physiology involved in determining sedentary, 'stay-at-home' traits versus exploratory, 'venture-forth' traits," Marden said. "Evolutionary biologists are fascinated by cost-benefit questions such as how natural selection produces and maintains both 'stay-at-home' and 'venture-forth' varieties within species." Marden also explained that the "stay-at-home versus venture-forth" dichotomy is fundamentally important for ecology because habitat changes, disease, and chance events cause local extinction of small populations in individual patches. "Species persistence on a regional scale requires that the rate of establishment of new populations must be at least as high as the rate of local-population extinctions," Marden said. "Dispersal of individual females is what determines the establishment rate, along with the number of patches and distances between them." Much of what is known about the biology of species in patches -- called metapopulations -- comes from Hanski's butterfly research, for which he will be awarded this year's Craaford Prize, generally considered as ecology's version of a Nobel prize.

Together, Marden and Hanski's labs used new gene-sequencing technology to characterize thousands of protein-coding genes in Glanville fritillary butterflies from the land Islands of Finland. Then, they measured and compared the variation in gene-expression levels in females from established populations of butterflies -- those originating from old, local populations that had persisted for a minimum of five years -- with new, local populations that had been founded by dispersing butterflies. They found that new-population and old-population butterflies differed most prominently in how they expressed certain genes that control the timing and release of stored proteins for egg production and the maintenance of flight-muscle proteins. They also differed in flight metabolic rate -- a measure of muscle performance and flight
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Contact: Barbara Kennedy
science@psu.edu
814-863-4682
Penn State
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2 3 4

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