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Some butterflies travel farther, reproduce faster

Researchers have uncovered physiological differences among female Glanville fritillary butterflies that allows some to move away from their birth place and establish new colonies. These venturesome butterflies are stronger fliers and reproduce more quickly compared to their less mobile female relatives.

The study is a window to how genetic differences influence behavior and how the environment influences genetic change by favoring individuals with certain traits, said lead author Howard W. Fescemyer. The new study found significant physiological differences that may account for the more adventuresome behavior of certain of the females.

The work is important because human activity is disrupting many animal habitats, forcing more and more species to do what the fritillary has long done in its naturally fragmented environment. Scientists want to know how this fragmentation influences a species' evolution.

"We may be selecting for genes that enhance the dispersal or migratory capability of animals when we fragment the landscape," Fescemyer said. The animals best able to migrate are more likely to survive and reproduce. "What we learn could apply to any organism that has to move to find food," he added

Åland Islands are natural laboratory

The study, "Population history-dependent reproductive physiology in a butterfly metapopulation," will be presented on Oct. 10 at Comparative Physiology 2006: Integrating Diversity, Oct. 8-11, Virginia Beach, Virginia. Howard W. Fescemyer and James H. Marden of Pennsylvania State University, Ilkka Hanski of the University of Helsinki and A. Daniel Jones of Michigan State University carried out the study. Marden was the senior researcher.

The researchers studied the Glanville fritillary butterfly (Melitaea cinxia) on the Åland Islands of Finland, located between Finland and Sweden in the Baltic Sea. The research team was composed of a population biologist, molecular biologist, phy
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Source:American Physiological Society


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