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Restricted within-habitat movement and time-constrained egg laying of female Maculinea rebeli butterflies


The movement of butterflies within habitat patches is usually assumed to be random, although few studies have shown this unambiguously. In the case of the highly specialized genus Maculinea, two contradictory hypotheses exist to explain the movement and distribution of imagos within patches: (1) due to the high spatial variance of survival rates among caterpillars, the “risk-spreading” hypothesis predicts that females will tend to make linear flight paths in order to maximize their net displacement and scatter the eggs as widely as possible; and (2) recent mark–release–recapture (MRR) data suggest that within-habitat displacement of some Maculinea species is constrained and that adults may establish home ranges. We tested both hypothesis by analysing the movement pattern of individuals. We also investigated whether egg laying is time constrained, which would enhance the trade-off between flying and egg laying. Thirty females of Maculinea rebeli (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) were tracked within a single population in Central Hungary. Their egg-laying behaviour and individual patterns of movement were recorded, and the latter were compared with random walk model predictions. The population was also sampled by MRR to estimate survival rates, and four non-mated, freshly eclosed females were dissected to assess their potential egg load. Net squared displacement of females was significantly lower than predicted by the random walk model and declined continuously after the 15th move. The ratio of net displacement and cumulative move length decreased with the number of moves, supporting the hypothesis that Maculinea butterflies establish home ranges. We found that low survival and a low rate of egg laying prevented females from laying their potential number of eggs within their lifespan. Time limitation increased the cost of movement, providing another possible explanation for the restricted movement of females.

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We thank Márta Kocsis, Szabolcs Sáfián, Zoltán Soltész, Annamária Szabó, Róbert Szűcs and Ágnes Vozár for their help in the field work and Andrea Harnos for her assistance in statistical analyses. The authors are especially grateful to Michel Baguette, Thomas Hovestadt, Nicolas Schtickzelle, Jeremy Thomas and Zoltán Varga for their useful comments, which considerably improved the manuscript. This work was supported by the EU MacMan project (EVK2-CT-2001-00126) and by the nationally funded the origin and genezis of the fauna of the Carpathian Basin project (NKFP 3B023-04). All experiments comply with the current laws of Hungary, where the experiments were performed.

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Correspondence to Ádám Kőrösi.

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Communicated by Konrad Fiedler.

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Kőrösi, Á., Örvössy, N., Batáry, P. et al. Restricted within-habitat movement and time-constrained egg laying of female Maculinea rebeli butterflies. Oecologia 156, 455–464 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-008-0986-1

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  • Home range
  • Myrmecophily
  • Oviposition
  • Random walk model
  • Risk spreading