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Landscape scale genetic effects of habitat fragmentation on a high gene flow species: Speyeria idalia (Nymphalidae)


B. L. Williams. Present address: Laboratory of Molecular Biology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Wisconsin, 1525 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706, USA. Fax: 608–262–9343; E-mail:


Detection of the genetic effects of recent habitat fragmentation in natural populations can be a difficult task, especially for high gene flow species. Previous analyses of mitochondrial DNA data from across the current range of Speyeria idalia indicated that the species exhibited high levels of gene flow among populations, with the exception of an isolated population in the eastern portion of its range. However, some populations are found on isolated habitat patches, which were recently separated from one another by large expanses of uninhabitable terrain, in the form of row crop agriculture. The goal of this study was to compare levels of genetic differentiation and diversity among populations found in relatively continuous habitat to populations in both recently and historically isolated habitat. Four microsatellite loci were used to genotype over 300 individuals from five populations in continuous habitat, five populations in recently fragmented habitat, and one historically isolated population. Results from the historically isolated population were concordant with previous analyses and suggest significant differentiation. Also, microsatellite data were consistent with the genetic effects of habitat fragmentation for the recently isolated populations, in the form of increased differentiation and decreased genetic diversity when compared to nonfragmented populations. These results suggest that given the appropriate control populations, microsatellite markers can be used to detect the effects of recent habitat fragmentation in natural populations, even at a large geographical scale in high gene flow species.