Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Gourmet butterflies speed north

Date:
May 24, 2012
Source:
University of York
Summary:
A new study has shown how a butterfly has changed its diet, and consequently has sped northwards in response to climate change. Researchers found that warmer summers have allowed the Brown Argus butterfly to complete its life cycle by eating wild Geranium plants. Because the Geraniums are widespread in the British countryside, this change in diet has allowed the butterfly to expand its range in Britain at a surprisingly rapid rate. Over the past 20 years, the Brown Argus has spread northwards by around 79 kilometres and has become common in the countryside in much of southern England.

A new study has shown how a butterfly has changed its diet, and consequently has sped northwards in response to climate change.
Credit: Keith Warmington, Butterfly Conservation

A new study led by scientists in the Department of Biology at the University of York has shown how a butterfly has changed its diet, and consequently has sped northwards in response to climate change.

Their study is published in the latest issue of Science.

The researchers found that warmer summers have allowed the Brown Argus butterfly to complete its life cycle by eating wild Geranium plants. Because the Geraniums are widespread in the British countryside, this change in diet has allowed the butterfly to expand its range in Britain at a surprisingly rapid rate. Over the past 20 years, the Brown Argus has spread northwards by around 79 kilometres and has become common in the countryside in much of southern England.

Lead author PhD student Rachel Pateman, of the University of York's Department of Biology and the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said: "Many species are shifting their distributions northwards as the climate warms, but this previously scarce species has surprised everyone by moving its range at over twice the average rate."

Co-author Chris Thomas, Professor of Conservation Biology at York, said: "Because wild Geraniums are widespread in the landscape, the butterflies can now move from one patch of host plants to next and hence move rapidly through the landscape -- expanding their range generation after generation."

Co-author David Roy, from the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said: "The change in diet represents a change to the interactions between species -- in this case between a butterfly and the plants that its caterpillars eat -- caused by climate warming. Changes to the interactions between species are often predicted to alter the rate at which species shift their distribution in response to climate change; and now we have demonstrated this in nature."

In the 1980s the butterfly was considered scarce in Britain, with populations undergoing continued decline but it has subsequently undergone a dramatic reversal of fortune. The team put this down to the effect of climate on the ability of the butterfly to use additional food plant species.

In the 1980s, the caterpillars were mainly confined to Rockrose plants growing on the chalk hills of southern England, but the use of plant species in the Geranium family has increased as summer temperatures have increased. Wild Geraniums are suitable food plants for the caterpillars in warm years, but not in colder summers. This seems to be because the plants grow in different places, which provide different microclimates. Common Rockrose is found mainly on hot south-facing slopes, where the butterfly can complete its life cycle even in cool summers. This is not the case for the Geraniums and so they only become suitable for the butterfly when summers are warm.

Co-author Richard Fox, from the charity Butterfly Conservation, said: "It is important that we understand how and why species are responding to climate change. Such research would not be possible without the thousands of records of butterflies our dedicated volunteers have collected over many decades, which have allowed us to detect these long term changes."

Rachel Pateman said: "This study has highlighted that species do not respond to climate change in isolation, and that climate change affects how species interact with one another. In the case of the Brown Argus butterfly, changes in interactions with its food plants have helped it to respond to climate change very rapidly. However, changes to interactions may hinder other species, potentially putting them at risk of extinction."

Co-author Professor Jane Hill, of the Department of Biology at the University of York, said: "There will be winners and losers from climate change. It is important that we begin to understand how the complex interactions between species affect their ability to adapt to climate change so we can identify those that might be at risk and where to focus conservation efforts."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of York. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. R. M. Pateman, J. K. Hill, D. B. Roy, R. Fox, C. D. Thomas. Temperature-Dependent Alterations in Host Use Drive Rapid Range Expansion in a Butterfly. Science, 2012; 336 (6084): 1028 DOI: 10.1126/science.1216980

Cite This Page:

University of York. "Gourmet butterflies speed north." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120524215141.htm>.
University of York. (2012, May 24). Gourmet butterflies speed north. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120524215141.htm
University of York. "Gourmet butterflies speed north." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120524215141.htm (accessed July 26, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How to Make Single Serving Smoothies: Howdini Hacks

How to Make Single Serving Smoothies: Howdini Hacks

Howdini (July 24, 2014) Smoothies are a great way to get in lots of healthy ingredients, plus they taste great! Howdini has a trick for making the perfect single-size smoothie that will save you time on cleanup too! All you need is a blender and a mason jar. Video provided by Howdini
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) An 8-year-old boy is bitten in the leg by a shark while vacationing at a Florida beach. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A new study claims a set of prehistoric T-Rex footprints supports the theory that the giant predators hunted in packs instead of alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins