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Various Means by which Butterflies Can Tolerate Climate Warming

Paper Reviewed
Bennett, N.L., Severns, P.M., Parmesan, C. and Singer, M.C. 2015. Geographic mosaics of phenology, host preference, adult size and microhabitat choice predict butterfly resilience to climate warming. Oikos 124: 41-53.

Working with the climate-sensitive butterfly Euphydryas editha, which exhibits inter-population variation in both phenology and egg placement, Bennett et al. (2015) exposed individuals of the species to diverse thermal environments and measured "eggspace"' temperatures adjacent to natural egg clutches in populations distributed across a range of latitudes (36°8'-44°6') and altitudes (213-3171 m)." This work revealed that in addition to altering their timing of egg laying to match appropriate thermal conditions, the butterflies could achieve the same objective of producing another viable generation of their species by placing their eggs at different elevations that achieved the same temperature-mediated objective.

The four researchers also note that further evidence for E. editha resilience "derives from the weakness of expected biogeographical trends." That is to say -- as they do -- that "the weak relationships between flight season temperature and latitude/altitude that are often seen, plus the failure of the insects to consistently choose the coolest microsites in the hottest climates, suggest that options for in situ adaptation to warming climate exist." And in light of these and other observations, Bennett et al. say they "expect that this species' potential for rapid evolution (Singer et al., 1993) and ecotypic variation (Singer and McBride, 2010) will enable it to persist across most of its range as climate warms."

Singer, M.C. and McBride, C.S. 2010. Multi-trait host-associated divergence among sets of butterfly populations: implications for reproductive isolation and ecological speciation. Evolution 64: 921-933.

Singer, M.C., Thomas, C.D. and Parmesan, C. 1993. Rapid human-induced evolution of insect-host associations. Nature 366: 681-683.

Posted 5 May 2015