Genetic effects on life-history traits in the Glanville fritillary butterfly
Adaptation to local habitat conditions may lead to the natural divergence of populations in life-history traits such as body size, time of reproduction, mate signaling or dispersal capacity. Given enough time and strong enough selection pressures, populations may experience local genetic differentiation. The genetic basis of many life-history traits, and their evolution according to different environmental conditions remain however poorly understood.
We conducted an association study on the Glanville fritillary butterfly, using material from five populations along a latitudinal gradient within the Baltic Sea region, which show different degrees of habitat fragmentation. We investigated variation in 10 principal components, cofounding in total 21 life-history traits, according to two environmental types, and 33 genetic SNP markers from 15 candidate genes.
We found that nine SNPs from five genes showed strong trend for trait associations (p-values under 0.001 before correction). These associations, yet non-significant after multiple test corrections, with a total number of 1,086 tests, were consistent across the study populations. Additionally, these nine genes also showed an allele frequency difference between the populations from the northern fragmented versus the southern continuous landscape.
Our study provides further support for previously described trait associations within the Glanville fritillary butterfly species across different spatial scales. Although our results alone are inconclusive, they are concordant with previous studies that identified these associations to be related to climatic changes or habitat fragmentation within the Åland population
- Evolutionary Biology