Peer-reviewed articles

Seasonal specialization drives divergent population dynamics in two closely related butterflies

Authors: Loke von Schmalensee, Pauline Caillault, Katrín Hulda Gunnarsdóttir, Philipp Lehmann

Version: Nature Communications

Publication year: 2023


Seasons impose different selection pressures on organisms through contrasting environmental conditions. How such seasonal evolutionary conflict is resolved in organisms whose lives span across seasons remains underexplored. Through field experiments, laboratory work, and citizen science data analyses, we investigate this question using two closely related butterflies (Pieris rapae and P. napi). Superficially, the two butterflies appear highly ecologically similar. Yet, the citizen science data reveal that their fitness is partitioned differently across seasons. Pieris rapae have higher population growth during the summer season but lower overwintering success than do P. napi. We show that these differences correspond to the physiology and behavior of the butterflies. Pieris rapae outperform P. napi at high temperatures in several growth season traits, reflected in microclimate choice by ovipositing wild females. Instead, P. rapae have higher winter mortality than do P. napi. We conclude that the difference in population dynamics between the two butterflies is driven by seasonal specialization, manifested as strategies that maximize gains during growth seasons and minimize harm during adverse seasons, respectively.

Link to article.