Host plant use by the Heath fritillary butterfly, Melitaea athalia : plant habitat, species and chemistry

J.H. Reudler Talsma, K. Torri, S. van Nouhuys

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    We present a study of habitat use, oviposition plant choice, and food plant suitability for the checkerspot butterfly Melitaea athalia Rottemburg (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) in Åland, Finland. We found that in Åland, unlike in the mainland of Finland and many parts of its range, M. athalia flies mainly in open meadows. When offered an array of plants in a large (32 × 26 m) field cage, they predominately oviposited upon Veronica chamaedrys L., V. spicata L. and Plantago lanceolata L. (Plantaginaceae), which grow in open meadows. The relative abundance of the butterfly in Åland, and its habitat and host plant use there, may reflect local adaptation to land use practices and geology that maintain clusters of small open meadows with little successional change. At the scale of a plant patch, preferred species were used as frequently in mixed species patches as in mono-specific patches, and more oviposition occurred in open than in grassy patches. All of the host plants used by M. athalia are defended by iridoid glycosides (IGs). However, oviposition choice among species and among individual plants within species was largely independent of IG concentration. This contrast with the more discerning congener, M. cinxia, supports the idea that host discrimination decreases with increasing host range. Finally, although the adult butterflies chose specific plant species for oviposition, as larvae they performed well on twelve out of thirteen species of plants, including both known hosts and related novel plants that occur in Åland, indicating a much wider range of larval food plant species than adult oviposition species.
    Originele taal-2Engels
    Pagina's (van-tot)63-75
    TijdschriftArthropod Plant Interactions
    Nummer van het tijdschrift2
    StatusGepubliceerd - 2008


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