Landscape Genetics in Hesperid Butterflies
To understand how landscape characteristics affect gene flow in species with diverging ecological traits, it is important to analyze taxonomically related sympatric species in the same landscape using identical methods. Here, we present such a comparative landscape genetic study involving three closely related Hesperid butterflies of the genus Thymelicus that represent a gradient of diverging ecological traits. We analyzed landscape effects on their gene flow by deriving inter-population connectivity estimates based on different species distribution models (SDMs), which were calculated from multiple landscape parameters. We then used SDM output maps to calculate circuit-theoretic connectivity estimates and statistically compared these estimates to actual genetic differentiation in each species. We based our inferences on two different analytical methods and two metrics of genetic differentiation. Results indicate that land use patterns influence population connectivity in the least mobile specialist T. acteon. In contrast, populations of the highly mobile generalist T. lineola were panmictic, lacking any landscape related effect on genetic differentiation. In the species with ecological traits in between those of the congeners, T. sylvestris, climate has a strong impact on inter-population connectivity. However, the relative importance of different landscape factors for connectivity varies when using different metrics of genetic differentiation in this species. Our results show that closely related species representing a gradient of ecological traits also show genetic structures and landscape genetic relationships that gradually change from a geographical macro- to micro-scale. Thus, the type and magnitude of landscape effects on gene flow can differ strongly even among closely related species inhabiting the same landscape, and depend on their relative degree of specialization. In addition, the use of different genetic differentiation metrics makes it possible to detect recent changes in the relative importance of landscape factors affecting gene flow, which likely change as a result of contemporary habitat alterations.