Abstracts (first author)
Evolutionary conservation of large blue butterfliesPDF
The large blue butterflies (genus Maculinea/Phengaris) are icons of invertebrate conservation. Their rarity is to a large extent due to their complex life cycle during which they exploit both specific host plants and specific host Myrmica ants, which must therefore co-occur. Even when both hosts are present in the same area, there is massive variation in the probability of adoption by and survival in different host ant nests. Over the last few decades we have learnt a great deal about some of the underlying causes of this variation, for example as a result of coevolutionary arms-races in chemical mimicry and the effects of variation in host ant social structure. Over the same period, there have been several attempts to reintroduce large blue butterflies to areas from which they have disappeared, with varying degrees of success. Here we examine to what extent the success of large blue butterfly reintroductions has been increased by a deeper understanding of their evolution, and the genetic and evolutionary consequences of reintroduction programs. We also examine how the success of future conservation efforts could be enhanced based on our current knowledge of the evolution and ecology of the large blue butterflies and their hosts.