Environmental Stress in Natural Populations – from Genes to Metapopulation Dynamics

4:00pm - 5:00pm / Tuesday 5th March 2019 / Venue: Lecture Theatre 1 Biosciences Building
Type: Seminar / Category: Research / Series: BEEM Seminar
  • Suitable for: Staff and students with an interest in Behaviour, Evolution, Ecology and Microbiology
  • Admission: Free
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Speaker: Marjo Saastamoinen (University of Helsinki)

Organisms are constantly challenged by environmental variation, for example in resource quality, which subsequently influence life history variation and evolution in natural populations. We are studying life-history responses and underlying mechanisms to cope with environmental stress, namely changes in host plant quality induced by drought, in the Glanville fritillary (Melitaea cinxia) butterfly. With effectively coupling laboratory and field based studies, we show how developmental time, resulting body mass as well as subsequent adult fitness-related traits are shaped by variation in food quality. We show that some of the responses are developmental stage-dependent, and that coping mechanisms include developmental switches as well as behavioural adjustments in both larvae and adults. Variation among families suggests genetic variation in the observed responses, which are further assessed by on-going genomic analyses. Our specific questions are assessed within an ecologically relevant context, as there is spatial and temporal variation in summer drought and host plant quality, as both temperature and precipitation conditions from spring to late summer greatly impact the metapopulation dynamics of the butterfly, and finally as the preference of warm microclimatic conditions by the female butterflies places the offspring and the local populations at risk of extinction during hot summers. I will finish my talk with some future perspectives related to the drastic decline of the metapopulation occupancy in 2018 due to the extreme heatwave that hit Northern Europe over the summer. Working with the large metapopulation of the Glanville fritillary butterfly gives us a unique opportunity to assess the processes operating from genes within individuals all the way to metapopulation-level dynamics.