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Data from: Anthropogenic host plant expansion leads a nettle-feeding butterfly out of the forest: consequences for larval survival and developmental plasticity in adult morphology

Citation

Merckx, Thomas; Serruys, Mélanie; Van Dyck, Hans (2015), Data from: Anthropogenic host plant expansion leads a nettle-feeding butterfly out of the forest: consequences for larval survival and developmental plasticity in adult morphology, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.2c972

Abstract

Recent anthropogenic eutrophication has meant that hostplants of nettle-feeding insects became quasi-omnipresent in fertile regions of Western Europe. However, hostplant resource quality – in terms of microclimate and nutritional value – may vary considerably between the ‘original’ forest habitat and ‘recent’ agricultural habitat. Here, we compared development in both environmental settings using a split-brood design, so as to explore to what extent larval survival and adult morphology in the nettle-feeding butterfly Aglais urticae are influenced by the anthropogenic environment. Nettles along field margins had higher C/N-ratios and provided warmer microclimates to larvae. Larvae developed 20% faster, and tended to improve their survival rates, on the agricultural land compared to woodland. Our split-brood approach indicated plastic responses within families, but also family effects in the phenotypic responses. Adult males and females had darker wing pigmentation in the drier and warmer agricultural environment, which contrasts with the thermal melanism hypothesis. Developmental plasticity in response to this micro-climatically different and more variable habitat was associated with a broader phenotypic parameter space for the species. Both habitat-expansion and developmental plasticity are likely contributors to the ecological and evolutionary success of these nettle-feeding insects in anthropogenic environments under high nitrogen load.

Usage Notes

Location

Belgium