Within-patch mobility and flight morphology reflect resource use and dispersal potential in the dryad butterfly Minois dryas
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Knowledge of mobility is essential for understanding animal habitat use and dispersal potential, especially in the case of species occurring in fragmented habitats. We compared within-patch movement distances, turning angles, resting times, and flight-related morphological traits in the locally endangered butterfly, the dryad (Minois dryas), between its old populations occupying xerothermic grasslands and newly established ones in wet meadows. We expected that the latter group should be more mobile. Individuals living in both habitat types did not differ in their body mass and size, but those from xerothermic grasslands had wider thoraxes and longer wings, thus lower wing loading index (defined as body mass to wing length ratio). The majority of movements were short and did not exceed 10 m. Movement distances were significantly larger in males. However, there was no direct effect of habitat type on movement distances. Our results suggest that the dryads from xerothermic grasslands have better flight capabilities, whereas those from wet meadows are likely to invest more in reproduction. This implies that mobility is shaped by resource availability rather than by recent evolutionary history. Lower female mobility may have negative implications for the metapopulation persistence because only mated females are able to (re)colonise vacant habitat patches efficiently. Conservation efforts should thus be focused on maintaining large habitat patches that prevent stochastic local extinctions. Furthermore, the recommendation of promoting the exchange of individuals among patches through improving matrix permeability, as well as assisted reintroductions of the species into suitable vacant habitats should also improve its conservation.
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