Butterfly Population Dynamics

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Science  02 Jun 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5778, pp. 1279
DOI: 10.1126/science.312.5778.1279a

Population dynamics of animals are generally considered to be governed by environmental influences and demographic processes. The potential influence of genetic variation on population dynamics, however, has received much less attention. In a study of the Glanville fritillary butterfly in Finland, Hanski and Saccheri provide evidence that allelic variation in the glycolytic enzyme phosphoglucose isomerase (Pgi), which affects metabolic rate and flight performance, also affects population growth. The butterflies inhabit discrete habitat patches, which vary in size and degree of connectivity to other patches. The strength and nature of the Pgi effect on population growth depended on the ecological context. In larger patches, selection favored genotypes with a slower maturation rate, but the opposite was true in smaller patches, where a faster maturation rate would allow efficient exploitation of limited resources. This integration of detailed field study and molecular genetics promises to open new avenues in the study of population dynamics. — AMS

PLoS Biol. 4, e129 (2006).

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