Does isolation affect phenotypic variability and fluctuating asymmetry in the endangered Red Apollo?

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Isolated populations represent one of the main focuses in conservation biology. Long-term isolation often causes losses of genetic diversity and as a consequence might reduce individual fitness. Morphometric characters can be used as suitable markers to analyse ecological stress and individual fitness of local populations. Asymmetry in bilateral symmetry is used as a measure for developmental instability of populations and is often negatively correlated with population size and low genetic diversity. As a study system, we selected the endangered butterfly Parnassius apollo, which occurs in small and isolated remnant populations in Central Europe, but also in fairly large metapopulations in the Alps. We analysed wing morphometrics (shape and size characters) of 812 individuals representing (1) already extinct, (2) highly isolated and (3) still interconnected populations. Seventeen landmarks on veins were used to analyse morphological variances in the wing shape. Our data show significant deviations between landmarks on the left and right wing side within individuals and strong morphological variance among individuals. The highest morphological variability could be found for individuals in the Alps, however, the level of asymmetry was very similar for all populations analysed. The higher morphological variability found in the Alps can be interpreted as a consequence of the higher level of the genetic diversity detectable for this region. Analysis on morphological variance of P. apollo individuals of the Mosel valley using time series ranging from 1895 until today showed no significant rise in asymmetry and no decline of morphological variability over time, although, anthropogenic habitat destruction has caused severe bottlenecks in this population.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Insect Conservation
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)571-579
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 08.2012

    Research areas

  • Biology - Genetic diversity, Geometric morphometrics, Landmarks, Local extinction, Parnassius apollo, Population isolation, Procrustes superimposition, Shape analyses