The ecological study of the maritime ringlet butterfly (<i>Coenonympha nipisiquit</i> McDunnough) in Daly Point, Bathurst, New Brunswick
I studied the autecology, community ecology, and genetics of an endangered butterfly, the maritime ringlet (Coenonympha nipisiquit McDunnough), that inhabits a limited number of salt marshes in northern New Brunswick and in the Gaspé Peninsula of Québec. I studied the survival rate of first- and second-instar larvae in various microhabitats in a salt marsh at Daly Point Natural Reserve, Bathurst, New Brunswick. I found they survived significantly better in microhabitats dominated by Spartina patens (Aiton) Muhl. at an intermediate elevation. I investigated the tolerance of the maritime ringlet larvae to tidal submergence and compared their performance to a closely related taxon, the inornate ringlet (C. tullia inornata Edwards). The experiments revealed that the maritime ringlet possesses unique adaptations to tidal submergence. I examined the flight and oviposition behaviors of adult females in response to microhabitat. I found that they did not discriminate between microhabitats based upon the likelihood of larval survival as long as S. patens or other potential hosts were abundant. I explored the correlation between predator species richness and abundance with the larval survival rate in microhabitats. I found that predator abundance and species richness often responded negatively to increasing tidal flooding, suggesting that high larval mortality at high elevation sites can be caused by high predation pressure. Lastly, I investigated the possibility of genetic introgression between the maritime ringlet and inornate ringlet and reconstructed the phylogeny of the C. tullia-group taxa in North America. The genetic evidence did not support the possibility of large-scale genetic introgression and raised the taxonomic status of the maritime ringlet from a subspecies of holarctic C. tullia to a full species. The phylogenetic analyses suggested that the divergence of the maritime ringlet was much earlier than previously believed. My results will aid in protection and recovery of this endangered species.