Flight metabolic rate and Pgi genotype influence butterfly dispersal rate in the field

Kristjan Niitepõald, Alan D. Smith, Juliet L. Osborne, Don R. Reynolds, Norman L. Carreck, Andrew P. Martin, James H. Marden, Otso Ovaskainen, Ilkka Hanski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

149 Scopus citations


Dispersal is a key life-history trait, especially in species inhabiting fragmented landscapes. The process of dispersal is affected by a suite of morphological, physiological, and behavioral traits, all of which have a more or less complex genetic basis and are affected by the prevailing environmental conditions. To be able to identify genetic and phenotypic effects on dispersal, movements have to be recorded over relevant spatial and temporal scales. We used harmonic radar to track free-flying Glanville fritillary butterflies {Melitaea cinxia) released in the field and reconstructed their flight tracks for several hours. Flight track lengths for individual butterflies ranged from tens of meters to several kilometers. Butterflies were most mobile at midday and in intermediate temperatures. Flight metabolic rate (MR), measured prior to the tracking, explained variation in mobility at all scales studied. One-third of the variation in the distance moved in one hour could be attributed to variation in flight MR. Heterozygous individuals at a single nucleotide polymorphism in the phosphoglucose isomerase (Pgi) gene moved longer distances in the morning and at lower ambient temperatures than homozygous individuals. A similar genotype × temperature interaction was found to affect the metabolic rate. Our results establish connections from molecular variation in a single gene to flight physiology and movement behavior at the landscape level. These results indicate a fitness advantage to the heterozygous genotype in low temperatures and suggest a mechanism by which varying environmental conditions maintain genetic polymorphism in populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2223-2232
Number of pages10
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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