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Keywords:

  • allozyme electrophoresis;
  • alpine species;
  • ice age;
  • Lepidoptera;
  • phylogeography;
  • Satyrinae

Abstract

Over several decades, the distribution patterns and evolution of alpine disjunct species has become an increasingly discussed subject. Large scale genetic analysis has allowed the resolution of the past range changes and intraspecific evolution of many species, in Europe especially of Mediterranean origin. However, the phylogeographic structures of species with arctic–alpine disjunct distribution patterns are relatively poorly studied. The existing phylogeographic analysis (mostly of alpine plant species) supports disjunct distributions during glacial as well as post-glacial periods for a number of species. However, several questions still remain unresolved and we therefore analysed the Mountain Ringlet Erebia epiphron as a model for such alpine disjunct species. We found strong differentiation into five different lineages supporting five differentiation centres: (i) the eastern Pyrenees, (ii) the mountain ranges between the central Pyrenees and south-western Alps, (iii, iv) two areas along the southern Alps margin and (v) the northern Alps margin. We propose that these patterns evolved due to the humidity requirements of this species, which did not allow survival in the dry glacial steppes, but along the margins of the wetter glaciated high mountain ranges.