The Biogeography of Adaptation and its Implication for Range Shifts under Climate Change

Doctoral Dissertation


The potential for geographic range shifts of species is a pressing issue in ecology given the rapid rate of anthropogenic climate change. These shifts will change total species richness and biodiversity patterns because species likely differ in their capacity to shift under climate change. This concern has sparked efforts to project changes in species’ geographic distributions. Several of the underlying assumptions of the ecological theories driving these projections, however, have not been rigorously tested. Current models of species’ ranges assume uniformity with respect to climatic impacts on fitness for all individuals of a species, which ignores local selection and historical genetic differences. Following this, these models assume that warmer temperatures at the poleward edge of a species’ range will increase fitness (“peripheral enhancement”), causing population increases and greater poleward colonization. My dissertation examines this assumption by using two butterfly species, Erynnis propertius and Papilio zelicaon, that co-occur and have contrasting levels of host specialization and dispersal ability. The aim of my research is to determine if populations are uniform or differentiated with respect to their responses to both temperature and host plant. I used a series of common garden experiments in the field and lab where I varied climate and host plant to see if locally adapted forms within species are present. I did not find evidence of local adaption in P. zelicaon, but populations across the species’ range performed poorly under the most extreme warming treatments and interactions between host plant and temperature altered growth and survivorship in this species. Growth and survivorship of E. propertius larvae increased in warmer conditions. However, local adaptation during the overwintering period counteracted the increases found during the growing period. Further, southern populations of E. propertius are locally adapted to their natal host plants, so colonization poleward may be further limited. This more nuanced consideration of species could lead to different expectations for the biological consequences of climate change if species can not shift their ranges as previously projected. We can not properly mitigate the effects of climate change on biodiversity until our projection methods capture realistic dynamics of species’ ranges.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-04082009-091551

Author Shannon Lynn Pelini
Advisor Jessica Hellmann
Contributor Mark Scriber, Committee Member
Contributor Gary Belovsky, Committee Member
Contributor Jessica Hellmann, Committee Chair
Contributor Jeanne Romero-Severson, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Biological Sciences
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2009-03-11

Submission Date 2009-04-08
  • United States of America

  • range shifts

  • plant-insect interactions

  • climate change

  • peripheral enhancement

  • local adaptation

  • Lepidoptera

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility and Access Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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