EB Ford revisited: assessing the long-term stability of wing-spot patterns and population genetic structure of the meadow brown butterfly on the Isles of Scilly

Heredity (Edinb). 2017 Apr;118(4):322-329. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2016.94. Epub 2016 Nov 2.


Understanding selection in the wild remains a major aim of evolutionary ecology and work by Ford and colleagues on the meadow brown butterfly Maniola jurtina did much to ignite this agenda. A great deal of their work was conducted during the 1950s on the Isles of Scilly. They documented island-specific wing-spot patterns that remained consistent over about a decade, but patterns on some islands changed after environmental perturbation. It was suggested that these wing-spot patterns reflected island-specific selection and that there was little migration between islands. However, genetic studies to test the underlying assumption of restricted migration are lacking and it is also unknown whether the originally described wing-spot patterns have persisted over time. We therefore collected female butterflies from five of Ford's original study locations, including three large islands (St Mary's, St Martin's and Tresco) and two small islands (Tean and St Helen's). Wing-spot patterns had not changed appreciably over time on three of the islands (two large and one small), but were significantly different on the other two. Furthermore, analysis of 176 amplified fragment length polymorphisms revealed significant genome-wide differentiation among the five islands. Our findings are consistent with Ford's conclusions that despite the close proximity of these islands, there is restricted gene flow among them.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism Analysis
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Butterflies / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Flow
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Islands
  • Models, Genetic
  • Pigmentation / genetics
  • United Kingdom
  • Wings, Animal*

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.j7v42