Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ringing the changes: What museum specimens reveal about climate change

Date:
August 19, 2013
Source:
British Ecological Society (BES)
Summary:
Butterflies collected as long ago as 1876 – the year Alexander Graham Bell made the world's first telephone call – are shedding new light on the earlier arrival of spring each year. Ecologists are using thousands of butterflies from museum collections to learn more about climate change.

Butterflies collected as long ago as 1876 -- the year Alexander Graham Bell made the world's first telephone call -- are shedding new light on the earlier arrival of spring each year. Speaking at INTECOL, the world's largest international ecology meeting, in London this week ecologists will describe how they are using thousands of butterflies from museum collections to learn more about climate change.

Phenology -- the study of the timing of recurring natural phenomena -- tells us a great deal about changing climate and its effect on wildlife. Although phenology provides some of the oldest written biological records in Britain, the date when butterflies emerge each spring has only been recorded systematically for the past 30-40 years.

Records from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme show that since 1976, spring has arrived 6-11 days earlier each decade due to rising temperatures. Now, ecologists from the Natural History Museum (NHM) and the University of Coventry have used some of the museum's 130,000 butterfly specimens collected over the past 200 years to look back at earlier springs.

They examined 2,600 specimens of four British butterfly species -- the Grizzled Skipper, the Duke of Burgundy, the Orange Tip and the Blue Adonis -- all held in the Museum's research collections. Collected between 1876 and 1999, each butterfly is mounted on a pin and labelled with when and where it was caught.

When they compared collection dates with temperature records, they found that in years with warm springs, collection dates were earlier than collection dates in cold, wet springs. The results also show March temperatures and rainfall were most critical in influencing how early these butterflies emerged.

According to Dr Steve Brooks, researcher at the Natural History Museum "Because they agree with observations over the last 30-40 years, our results show that natural history museum collections can provide vital historical information about how butterflies and other organisms respond to climate change."

Understanding the impact of these changes is important because different species depend on each other for food. "Long-term shifts in when British butterflies first emerge due to changing climate may mean the butterflies are no longer synchronised with the food plants on which their caterpillars depend. Many birds depend on caterpillars to feed their chicks but changes in the timing of butterfly life cycles may lead to insufficient caterpillars being present when they are needed by the young birds. By providing long term data from museum collections we can get a more accurate idea of the rates of these shifts in timing," he explains.

The team will now use the museum collections to study how all British butterfly species have responded to seasonal climate change over the past 150-200 years, as well as its impact on their food plants and egg laying dates in British birds to build a complete picture of how earlier springs are affecting food webs.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by British Ecological Society (BES). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

British Ecological Society (BES). "Ringing the changes: What museum specimens reveal about climate change." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 August 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130819090145.htm>.
British Ecological Society (BES). (2013, August 19). Ringing the changes: What museum specimens reveal about climate change. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130819090145.htm
British Ecological Society (BES). "Ringing the changes: What museum specimens reveal about climate change." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130819090145.htm (accessed April 20, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Newsy (Apr. 20, 2014) A 9-year-old Michigan boy was exploring a creek when he came across a 10,000-year-old tooth from a prehistoric mastodon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Dairy farmers and ethnic groups in Vermont are both benefiting from a unique collaborative effort that's feeding a growing need for fresh and affordable goat meat. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Andy Dixon showed the Daily Mail a screenshot of what he believes to be the mythical beast swimming just below the lake's surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. 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