• demographic perturbation;
  • fragmented landscape;
  • gene flow;
  • Glanville fritillary;
  • microsatellite;
  • null allele;
  • SNP;
  • spatial population structure


The Glanville fritillary butterfly (Melitaea cinxia) has been studied in the Åland Islands in Finland since 1991, where it occurs as a classic metapopulation in a large network of 4000 dry meadows. Much ecological work has been conducted on this species, but population genetic studies have been hampered by paucity of suitable genetic markers. Here, using single nucleotide polymorphisms and microsatellites developed for the Glanville fritillary, we examine the correspondence between the demographic and genetic spatial structures. Given the dynamic nature of the metapopulation, the current genetic spatial structure may bear a signal of past changes in population sizes and past patterns of gene flow rather than reflect the current demographic structure or landscape structure. We analyse this question with demographic data for 10 years, using the Rand index to assess the similarity between the genetic, demographic, and landscape spatial structures. Our results show that the current genetic spatial structure is better explained by the past rather than by the current demographic spatial structure or by the spatial configuration of the habitat in the landscape. Furthermore, current genetic diversity is significantly explained by past metapopulation sizes. The time lag between major demographic events and change in the genetic spatial structure and diversity has implications for the study of spatial dynamics.