Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Complexity of species conservation in managed habitats: interaction betweenMaculinea butterflies and their ant hosts

Abstract

Europe's five species ofMaculinea butterfly are examples of endangered species adapted to live in traditional, cultural landscapes. All are threatened with extinction in Western Europe because of recent changes in land use. This is illustrated by an historical account of the extinction of the BritishMaculinea arion populations, despite many conservation attempts. It is shown how the failures proved to be due to ignorance of the key factor forM. arion, its specialization on a single ant host,Myrmica sabuleti. A brief account is given of research that shows how each of the five species is similarly dependent upon a separate hostMyrmica ant species and how each has an interesting and rare specific parasitoid. Steps for the practical conservation of existingMaculinea populations including the obligation, under the Bern Convention, to re-establish nationally extinct species are outlined. The procedure and problems involved in re-establishment are illustrated with reference to the successful programme forM. arion in Britain. The best way of ensuring robust populations ofMaculinea butterflies is to manage habitats to optimize the density and distribution of the required species ofMyrmica host and, secondarily, the distribution of the larval food plant. The value of single species conservation in cultural habitats is discussed. It is concluded that this is possible to achieve and that other rare organisms also often benefit, but only when conservation measures are based on the results of detailed autecological research.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Benham, B.R. (1973) The decline (and fall?) of the Large blue butterfly.Bull. Amat. Entomol. Soc. 32, 88–94.

  2. Chapman, T.A. (1916) What the larva ofLycaena arion does during its last instar.Trans. Entomol. Soc. Lond. 1915, 291–87.

  3. Chapman, T.A. (1918). On the life history ofLycaena alcon.F. Lépidoptórologie Comparée 15, 277–300.

  4. Dempster, J.P., King, M.L. and Lakhani, K.H. (1976) The status of the Swallowtail butterfly in Britain.Ecol. Entomol. 1, 71–84.

  5. Elmes, G.W. (1978) A morphometric comparison of three closely related species ofMyrmica (Formicidae), including a new species from England.Syst. Entomol. 3, 131–45.

  6. Elmes, G.W. and Thomas, J.A. (1987a) Die GattungMaculinea. InTagfalter und ihr Lebensräume (W. Geiger, ed.) pp. 354–68 Basel: Schweizerisches Bund für Naturschutz.

  7. Elmes, G.W. and Thomas, J.A. (1987b) Die Biologie und Ökologie der Ameisen der GattungMyrmica. InTagfalter und ihr Lebensräume, (W. Geiger, ed.) pp. 404–9 Basel: Schweizerisches Bund für Naturschutz.

  8. Elmes G.W. and Wardlaw, J.C. (1981) The quantity and quality of overwintered larvae in five species ofMyrmica (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).J. Zool. (London).193, 429–46.

  9. Elmes, G.W. and Wardlaw, J.C. (1982a) A population study of the two antsMyrmica sabuleti andMyrmica scabrinodis living at two sites in the south of England. I. A comparison of colony populations.J. Anim. Ecol. 51, 651–64.

  10. Elmes, G.W. and Wardlaw, J.C. (1982b) A population study of the two antsMyrimica sabuleti andMyrmica scabrinodis living at two sites in the south of England. II. Effect of above-nest vegetation.J. Anim. Ecol. 51, 665–80.

  11. Elmes, G.W., Thomas, J.A. and Wardlaw (1991a) Larvae ofMaculinea rebeli, a large-blue butterfly, and theirMyrmica host ants: wild adoption and behaviour in ant-nests.J. Zool. (London).223, 106–18.

  12. Elmes, G.W., Wardlaw and Thomas, J.A. (1991b) Larvae ofMaculinea rebeli, a large-blue butterfly, and theirMyrmica host ants: patterns of caterpillar growth and survival.J. Zool. (London).224, 79–92.

  13. Erhardt, A. (1985) Diurnal Lepidoptera: sensitive indicators of cultivated and abandoned grassland.J. Appl. Ecol. 22, 849–61.

  14. Erhardt, A. and Thomas, J.A. (1991) Lepidoptera as indicators of change in the semi-natural grasslands of lowland and upland Europe. InThe conservation of insects and their habitats. (Collins, N.M. and Thomas J.A., eds) Chapter 9. London: Academic Press.

  15. Frowhawk, F.W. (1916) Further observations on the last stage of the larvaLycaena arion.Trans. Entomol. Soc. London, 1915, 313–6.

  16. Frowhawk, F.W. (1924)Natural history of British butterflies. London.

  17. Elfferich, N.W. (1963) Kweekervaringen metMaculinea alcon Schiff.Entomologische Berichten.23, 46–52.

  18. Heath, J. (1981)Threatened Rhopalocera in Europe. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.

  19. Hochberg, M.E., Thomas, J.A. and Elmes, G.W. (1992) A modelling study of the population dynamics of a Large Blue butterfly,Maculinea rebeli, a parasite of Red ant nests.J. Anim. Ecol. (in press).

  20. Marsden, H. (1884) On the probably extinction of arion in England.Entomologist's Monthly Magazine,21, 186–9.

  21. Mellanby, K. (1981)Farming and Wildlife. London: Collins.

  22. Muggleton, J. and Benham (1975) Isolation and the decline of the Large Blue butterfly (Maculinea arion) in Great Britain.Biol. Conserv. 7, 119–28.

  23. Manguira, M.L. (1987) Biología y biogeographà de los Licénidos Ibéricos en peligero de extinción (Lepidoptera, Lycaenidae). Tesis Doctoral Madrid.

  24. Peterken, G.F. (1981)Woodland conservation and management. London: Chapman & Hall.

  25. Rackham, O. (1986)The history of the countryside. London: J.M. Dent.

  26. Schroth, M. and Maschwitz, U. (1984) Zur larvalbiologie und wirtfidung vonMaculinea teleius (Lepidoptera, Lycaenidae), eines parasiten vonMyrmica laevinodis (Hymenoptera, Formicidae).entomologica Generalis,9(4, 225–30.

  27. Seifert, B. (1987) A model to estimate interspecific competitive displacement in ants (Hymenoptera, Formicidae).Zoologische Jahrbücher Systematik.114, 451–69.

  28. Smith, C.J. (1980)Ecology of the English Chalk. London: Academic Press.

  29. Spooner, G.M. (1963) On causes of the decline ofMaculinea arion L. (Lep., Lycaenidae) in Britain.Entomologist 96, 199–210.

  30. Thomas, J.A. (1976)The biology and conservation of the Large Blue butterfly Maculinea arion L. ITE, Monks Wood, Abbots Ripton, UK.

  31. Thomas, J.A. (1977)Ecology and conservation of the Large Blue butterfly—second report ITE, Monks Wood, Abbots Ripton, UK.

  32. Thomas, J.A. (1980) Why did the Large Blue become extinct in Britain?Oryx,15, 243–7.

  33. Thomas, J.A. (1984a) The conservation of butterflies in temperate countries: past efforts and lessons for the future.Symp. Roy. Entomol. Soc. London. 11, 333–53.

  34. Thomas, J.A. (1984b) The behaviour and habitat requirements ofMaculinea nausithous (the Dusky Large Blue butterfly) andM. teleius (the Scarce Large Blue) in France.Biol. Conserv. 28, 325–47.

  35. Thomas, J.A. (1984c) The re-establishment of the Large Blue butterfly.News Brit. Butterfly Conserv. Soc. 33, 13–4.

  36. Thomas, J.A. (1987) The return of the Large Blue butterfly.News Brit. Butterfly Conserv. Soc. 38, 22–6.

  37. Thomas, J.A. (1989) The return of the Large Blue butterfly.Brit. Wildlife. 1, 2–13.

  38. Thomas, J.A. (1991) Rare species conservation: case studies of European butterflies. InThe scientific management of temperate communities for conservation. Spellerberg, Goldsmith and Morris eds) BES Symposium31, pp. 149–97. Oxford: Blackwells.

  39. Thomas, J.A. (1992) Adaptations to living near ants. InThe Ecology of British Butterflies. R.L.H. Dennis. Oxford: Oxford University Press (in press).

  40. Thomas, J.A. and Wardlaw, J.C. (1990) The effect of queen ants on the survival ofMaculinea arion larvae inMyrmica and nests.Oecologia. 85, 87–91.

  41. Thomas, J.A. and Wardlaw, J.C. (1992) The capacity of aMyrmica ant nest to support a predacious species ofMaculinea butterfly.Oecologia (in press).

  42. Thomas, J.A., Thomas, C.D. and Simcox, D.J. (1986) The ecology and declining status of the Silver-spotted skipper butterfly (Hesperia comma) in Britian.J. Appl. Ecol. 23, 365–80.

  43. Thomas, J.A., Elmes, G.W., Wardlaw, J.C. and Woyciechowski, M. (1989) Host specificity amongMaculinea butterflies inMyrmica ant nests.Oecologia. 79, 452–7.

  44. Thomas, J.A., Munguira, M.L., Martin, J. and Elmes, G.W. (1991) Basal hatching byMaculinea butterfly eggs: a consequence of advanced myrmecophily?Biol. J. Linnean Soc. 44, 175–84.

  45. Tutt, J.W. (1897) The gradual decadence ofLycaena arion.Entomologist's Record. 6, 121–5.

  46. Warren, M.S. (1991) The successful conservation of an endangered species, the heath fritillary butterfly,Mellicta athalia, in Britain.Biol. Conserv. 55, 37–56.

  47. Warren, M.S., Thomas, C.D. and Thomas, J.A. (1984) The status of the heath fritillary butterflyMellicta athalia Rott. in Britain.Biol. Conserv. 29, 287–305.

  48. Webb, N.R. (1986)Heathlands London: Collins.

  49. Wells, S.M., Pyle, R.M. and Collins, N.M. (1983)The IUCN Red Data Book: Invertebrates Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.

  50. Wilson, E.O. (1990)Success and dominance in ecosystems: the case of the social insects. Nordlsünte: Ecology Institute.

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Elmes, G.W., Thomas, J.A. Complexity of species conservation in managed habitats: interaction betweenMaculinea butterflies and their ant hosts. Biodivers Conserv 1, 155–169 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00695913

Download citation

Keywords

  • Maculinea
  • Myrmica
  • conservation
  • re-establishment
  • ecology