Museomics identifies genetic erosion in two butterfly species across the 20th century in Finland

Mol Ecol Resour. 2020 Sep;20(5):1191-1205. doi: 10.1111/1755-0998.13167. Epub 2020 May 14.


Erosion of biodiversity generated by anthropogenic activities has been studied for decades and in many areas at the species level, using taxa monitoring. In contrast, genetic erosion within species has rarely been tracked, and is often studied by inferring past population dynamics from contemporaneous estimators. An alternative to such inferences is the direct examination of past genes, by analysing museum collection specimens. While providing direct access to genetic variation over time, historical DNA is usually not optimally preserved, and it is necessary to apply genotyping methods based on hybridization-capture to unravel past genetic variation. In this study, we apply such a method (i.e., HyRAD), to large time series of two butterfly species in Finland, and present a new bioinformatic pipeline, namely PopHyRAD, that standardizes and optimizes the analysis of HyRAD data at the within-species level. In the localities for which the data retrieved have sufficient power to accurately examine genetic dynamics through time, we show that genetic erosion has increased across the last 100 years, as revealed by signatures of allele extinctions and heterozygosity decreases, despite local variations. In one of the two butterflies (Erebia embla), isolation by distance also increased through time, revealing the effect of greater habitat fragmentation over time.

Keywords: HyRAD; Lepidoptera; museomics; past gene frequencies; population dynamics.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biodiversity
  • Butterflies* / classification
  • Butterflies* / genetics
  • Ecosystem
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Finland
  • Genetic Variation
  • Museums
  • Population Dynamics