Dispersal-related life-history trade-offs in a butterfly metapopulation


Ilkka Hanski, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, PO Box 65, Viikinkaari 1, FI-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland. E-mail: ilkka.hanski@helsinki.fi


  • 1Recent studies on butterflies have documented apparent evolutionary changes in dispersal rate in response to climate change and habitat change. These studies often assume a trade-off between dispersal rate (or flight capacity) and reproduction, which is the rule in wing-dimorphic species but might not occur equally in wing-monomorphic species such as butterflies.
  • 2To investigate the relationship between dispersal rate and fecundity in the Glanville fritillary butterfly Melitaea cinxia we recorded lifetime individual movements, matings, ovipositions, and maximal life span in a large (32 × 26 m) population cage in the field. Experimental material was obtained from 20 newly established and 20 old local populations within a large metapopulation in the Åland Islands in Finland.
  • 3Females of the Glanville fritillary from newly established populations are known to be more dispersive in the field, and in the cage they showed significantly greater mobility, mated earlier, and laid more egg clutches than females from old populations. The dispersive females from new populations exhibited no reduced lifetime fecundity in the cage, but they had a shorter maximal life span than old-population females.
  • 4These results challenge the dispersal–fecundity trade-off for nonmigratory butterflies but instead suggest a physiological trade-off between high metabolic performance and reduced maximal life span. High metabolic performance may explain high rates of dispersal and oviposition in early life.
  • 5In fragmented landscapes, an ecological trade-off exists between being more dispersive and hence spending more time in the landscape matrix vs. having more time for reproduction in the habitat. We estimate with a dispersal model parameterized for the Glanville fritillary that the lifetime egg production is 4% smaller on average in the more dispersive butterflies in a representative landscape, with much variation depending on landscape structure in the neighbourhood of the natal patch, from −26 to 45% in the landscape analysed in this paper.