Generalist species and phenotypes are expected to perform best under rapid environmental change. In contrast to this view that generalists will inherit the Earth, we find that increased use of a single host plant is associated with the recent climate-driven range expansion of the UK brown argus butterfly. Field assays of female host plant preference across the UK reveal a diversity of adaptations to host plants in long-established parts of the range, whereas butterflies in recently colonized areas are more specialized, consistently preferring to lay eggs on one host plant species that is geographically widespread throughout the region of expansion, despite being locally rare. By common-garden rearing of females' offspring, we also show an increase in dispersal propensity associated with the colonization of new sites. Range expansion is therefore associated with an increase in the spatial scale of adaptation as dispersive specialists selectively spread into new regions. Major restructuring of patterns of local adaptation is likely to occur across many taxa with climate change, as lineages suited to regional colonization rather than local success emerge and expand.
|Number of pages||1|
|Journal||Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences|
|Publication status||Published - 7 Feb 2014|