Fieldwork: sampling Hipparchia butterflies from the “large” population in Central Italy 4.10.2020

As for the other species of the project, the study design requires the analysis of the genomes from a small endangered population (S) to be compared with a large population (L). We were very lucky to be successful in sampling a small population of Hipparchia sbordonii from the island of Ponza on 24 June 2019 and collecting ten specimens. In previous years, very few individuals had in fact been observed in ad-hoc surveys carried out throughout the island.
There are no ‘large’ populations of Hipparchia sbordonii, a species that is only present in a very small range in the Pontine islands. Therefore, we used a population of the sister taxon Hipparchia semele, the Grayling, as our “control” L population.  Genetic data indicates that Hipparchia semele can be considered a very large and homogeneous population with weak differentiation among geographic areas in Italy.
A few days ago, on 6th September 2020, Donatella and Valerio performed a survey on the Aurunci Mountains (not far from Rome) to collect H. semele samples (photo 1). We chose the Campodimele-Itri area as the sampling site, located right in front of the Pontine islands (photo 2) and with similar xero-thermophilic characteristics. The sampling was successful, despite the fact that butterflies were not particularly frequent in that site (a trend also observed in other Apennine areas in the current season). Ten individuals are now in the freezer in Rome and will be soon sequenced in Florence.
The next field effort will be addressed to the island of Palmarola to ascertain whether the very small colony of H. sbordonii is still alive there and if it is feasible to pick up a small sample. A short campaign in June 2019 was unsuccessful. Indeed, the last record of the occurrence of the butterfly at Palmarola is dating back to 1990!   

A male of Hipparchia semele (photo by Valerio Sbordoni)
The Pontine islands as seen from the Aurunci Mts. (photo by Donatella Cesaroni)

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