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Sielezniew M.,University of Bialystok | Dziekanska I.,Association for Butterfly Conservation TOM | Stankiewicz-Fiedurek A.M.,Polish Academy of Sciences
Journal of Insect Conservation | Year: 2010

Phengaris (=Maculinea) arion is an endangered social parasite of Myrmica ants, and for a very long time was considered as specific to Myrmica sabuleti. Previous studies carried out in Poland suggested some discrepancies within this assumption, and therefore a much more intensive survey was undertaken. The host ant use of P. arion was studied at five sites in different types of biotopes in Poland, i.e. xerothermal grasslands where Thymus pulegioides was used as a larval food plant by the butterfly, and more or less sandy biotopes with Thymus serpyllum. Altogether nine Myrmica species were recorded, and considerable variation in species composition and density of nests was recorded. At four localities M. sabuleti proved to be the most common ant. A total of 529 Myrmica nests were examined, and only 20 of them contained larvae and pupae of P. arion. Host ants belonged to five different species, i.e. M. sabuleti, Myrmica scabrinodis, Myrmica schencki, Myrmica lobicornis and Myrmica hellenica. Only at one site (NE Poland) was a significant heterogeneity in parasitation rates among Myrmica species detected. M. lobicornis was the most often infested ant there, which may suggest local specialisation of the butterfly. Overall low parasitism rates may explain the vulnerability of P. arion in Central Europe but further studies are also necessary. © 2009 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.


Sielezniew M.,University of Bialystok | Dziekanska I.,Association for Butterfly Conservation TOM
Annales Zoologici | Year: 2011

Socially parasitic and globally threatened Phengaris (=Maculinea) arion (L.) is one of the most intensively investigated insect species in Europe. Although current studies focus on ecology and genetics, the butterfly has also attracted attention because of its morphology. An extremely variable black pattern on the blue background of the wing upperside has resulted in the description of many different forms or even subspecies. We studied the variation of 148 individuals from five regional populations at a latitudinal gradient in Poland: two north-eastern populations, one middle-eastern populations and two southern populations. A proportion of the area covered with marginal strips and spots was measured, and the presence/absence of particular elements was also analyzed. For all except one, the most northern region, we found significant sexual dimorphism, with females being darker than males. Within sexes, the melanization level was higher in the north-east than in the south, and the mid eastern region showed intermediate characteristics. Differences in colouration overlapped with variation in host ant use, but neither feature corresponded with the available genetic data and therefore clinal variation is a more likely explanation for the observed pattern. Melanization level may be an adaptation to climatic conditions, but it remains unclear which strategy of dorsal basking is applied by P. arion. © Fundacja Natura optima dux.


Sielezniew M.,University of Bialystok | Patricelli D.,University of Turin | Dziekanska I.,Association for Butterfly Conservation TOM | Barbero F.,University of Turin | And 5 more authors.
Sociobiology | Year: 2010

Studies on host-ants of the socially parasitic Large Blue butterfly Phengaris arion were performed at two sites located in different parts of Europe (NW Italy and NE Poland). Both localities differed considerably as far as biotope type was concerned (alpine grasslands vs. road verges in lowland pine forests). We opened and examined 206 colonies of nine Myrmica species in Italy and 146 colonies of seven species in Poland. In the two samples only one and seven nests respectively were infested by the butterfly. The most interesting findings for both localities were single records of M. lonae hosting P. arion, which represents a novelty for this myrmecophilous lycaenid. For the Italian site this is also the first and only observation of a premature of P. arion in an ant colony. M. sabuleti, which had been considered so far as the primary host of the butterfly on xerothermal grasslands, was very rare there. It is therefore excluded that it could support that butterfly population. At the Polish site pupae or larvae of the butterfly were found simultaneously in M. lobicornis, M. schencki and M. sabuleti nests (two nests were infested for each species), which suggests multiple host ant use. Our studies also contribute to basic faunistic knowledge. For M. lonae and M. lobulicornis, found at the Italian site, these are the first records of these ants on a national scale.


Sielezniew M.,University of Bialystok | Ponikwicka-Tyszko D.,University of Bialystok | Ponikwicka-Tyszko D.,Polish Academy of Sciences | Ratkiewicz M.,University of Bialystok | And 3 more authors.
European Journal of Entomology | Year: 2011

Plebejus argus is a model species for studying the biology, population ecology and genetics of butterflies. It is patchily distributed throughout most of its European range and considered to be sedentary. Habitats of the butterfly have to encompass two vital larval-resources, i.e. specific food plants and ants, since caterpillars are obligatorily myrmecophilous. The genetic structure of nine P. argus populations (85 individuals) was studied at an intermediate geographical scale (Eastern Poland, diameter of about 400 km) using two kinds of molecular markers i.e. COI (mtDNA) and EF-1α (nuclear gene). Both markers were highly variable with as many as 16 haplotypes and 39 alleles, respectively. Great genetic differentiation in the COI gene was detected (overall F ST = 0.411, P < 0.001) but little genetic differentiation in the EF-1α gene (F ST = 0.021, P < 0.001). The number of COI haplotypes (ranging from one to seven) and their distribution varied considerably among P. argus populations. The possibility that this heterogeneity was related to Wolbachia was excluded as this endoparasitic bacterium was not detected in samples from any of the populations studied. PCA and SAMOVA analyses divided the sampled populations into two or three groups, which could indicate different colonization routes. Moreover, the differences in genetic differentiation with respect to mtDNA and nuclear markers may suggest male-biased dispersal of P. argus at a larger scale. The hypothesis that females are philopatric is consistent with direct observations of the restricted colonization abilities of the butterfly, while the relatively homogeneous genetic structure revealed by previous allozyme studies in some areas might be explained by the possible higher mobility of males.


Sielezniew M.,University of Bialystok | Wlostowski M.,University of Bialystok | Dziekanska I.,Association for Butterfly Conservation TOM
Sociobiology | Year: 2010

Phengaris arion is a famous, endangered social parasite of Myrmica ants, which used to be considered specific to M. sabuleti. Recently a much more complicated pattern of host use has been revealed, and our studies conducted on two heathlands have contributed to it. M. schencki proved to be the most common Myrmica species in both localities, and also the only ant used by the butterfly there. It is the first piece of evidence of the existence of populations which apparently depend exclusively on this species. At one site a pupa of P. arion, parasitised by the ichneumonid wasp Neotypus coreensis, was also found. This is an interesting record, as any data concerning parasitoids of the butterfly are poorly documented in the existing literature.

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