The use of molecular genetics in the formulation of conservation strategies for Lepidoptera.
The broad aim of this research, funded by English Nature, was to use genetic
techniques to inform conservation strategies and contribute to species action plans for
selected Lepidoptera. The three species chosen for the study were the marsh fritillary
(Euphydryas aurinia), the high brown fritillary (Argynnis adippe) and the chequered
skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon). Allozymes and mitochondrial DNA were used
to answer individual questions applicable to each species. All three species seem to
have colonised the UK after the last ice-age in one event. Most work took place on E.
aurinia forming national and local scale research. Genetic differentiation between
populations was fairly high, but it may be that a metapopulation structure ensures
local population sizes remain large enough to delay the signs of drift. A. adippe was
sampled from two populations; this extremely rare butterfly seems to have lost some
genetic diversity, but further samples are required before firm conclusions can be
drawn. C. palaemon is being reintroduced into England, and identification of the most
genetically appropriate source for a donor population was required, using museum
specimens to type the extinct English population. The species seems to have colonised
the UK in one post-glacial event, and from a genetic point of view, both northern
European and Scotland contain appropriate donor populations. Finally, the ways in
which genetics can complement ecological work to aid conservation are discussed.