Eur. J. Entomol. 113: 104-112, 2016 | 10.14411/eje.2016.013

Climate-induced changes in the phenotypic plasticity of the Heath Fritillary, Melitaea athalia (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae)

Edit JUHÁSZ1, Zsolt VÉGVÁRI2, János P. TÓTH3, Katalin PECSENYE1, Zoltán VARGA1
1 Department of Evolutionary Zoology and Human Biology, University of Debrecen, Egyetem tér 1, Debrecen 4032, Hungary; e-mails: juhasz.edit@science.unideb.hu, pecskati@gmail.com, varga.zoltan@science.unideb.hu
2 Department of Conservation Zoology, Hortobágy National Park Directorate, University of Debrecen, Sumen u. 2, Debrecen 4024, Hungary; e-mail: zsolt.vegvari@gmail.com
3 MTA-DE "Lendület" Behavioural Ecology Research Group, Department of Evolutionary Zoology, University of Debrecen, Egyetem tér 1, Debrecen 4032, Hungary; e-mail: acutiformis@yahoo.com

Recently a large number of studies have reported an increase in the variability in the climate, which affects behavioural and physiological adaptations in a broad range of organisms. Specifically, insects may be especially sensitive to climatic fluctuations, as their physiology and life history traits, like those of other ectotherms, are predominantly affected by environmental factors. Here we aimed to investigate climate-induced changes in several morphometric measures of the Heath Fritillary in North-Eastern Hungary, which is a highly diverse transitional area. During this study we tested the following hypotheses: (i) climate affects genitalia and body size to various degrees (ii) increasing variability in climate induces higher levels of fluctuating asymmetry and variance in all morphological characters. To our knowledge, this study is the first to analyse simultaneously wing size and structure of genitalia of a butterfly in response to variability in climate. Our findings suggest that wing and genital traits may exhibit similar degrees of stability in response to a more variable climate, although the response in terms of forewing size differs from that of other body measurements and the structure of the genitalia. These findings suggest that global climate change may affect lepidopteran body metrics over longer periods of time. Our findings parallel the results of investigations showing that insect morphology might be modified by environmental changes, which is especially the case for those body parts that are phenotypically very variable. However, we found no evidence that increasing variability in climate would induce higher levels of fluctuating asymmetry and greater variability in morphological characters.

Keywords: Lepidoptera, Nymphalidae, Melitaea athalia, butterfly, Carpathian Basin, morphology, Procrustes anova

Received: August 7, 2015; Accepted: October 12, 2015; Published online: January 14, 2016

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