Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Modern caterpillars feed at higher temperatures in response to climate change

Date:
December 19, 2013
Source:
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Summary:
Caterpillars of two species of butterflies in Colorado and California have evolved to feed rapidly at higher and at a broader range of temperatures in the past 40 years, suggesting that they are evolving quickly to cope with a hotter, more variable climate.

A Colias (sulphur) butterfly.
Credit: By Greg Hume (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Caterpillars of two species of butterflies in Colorado and California have evolved to feed rapidly at higher temperatures and at a broader range of temperatures over the past 40 years, suggesting that they are evolving quickly to cope with a hotter, more variable climate.

The work, led by Joel Kingsolver at UNC-Chapel Hill, represents a rare instance of how recent climate change affects physiological traits, such as how the body regulates feeding behavior.

"To our knowledge, this is the first instance where we show changes in physiological traits in response to recent climate change," says Kingsolver, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Biology in UNC's College of Arts and Sciences, whose work appears today in the journal Functional Ecology.

Caterpillars can eat and grow only when it's not too cold and not too hot, explains Kingsolver. But when temperatures are ideal, caterpillars eat with reckless abandon and can gain up to 20 percent of their body weight in an hour. That growth determines their ability to survive, how quickly they become adult butterflies and their ultimate reproductive success.

Jessica Higgins, a graduate student in Kingsolver's lab who spearheaded the study, worked with fellow graduate student Heidi MacLean, Lauren Buckley, currently at the University of Washington, and Kingsolver to compare modern caterpillars to their ancestors from 40 years ago.

Their results show that the two related species of Colias (sulphur) butterflies have adapted in two ways: they not only broadened the range of their ideal feeding temperatures but also shifted their optimal feeding temperature to a higher one.

In their work, the researchers measured changes in climate at the two study sites and then examined changes in how fast caterpillar ate using current and historical data from the 1970s, collected by Kingsolver's graduate adviser Ward Watt.

Although they found little change in the average air temperature at both study sites, they noticed that the frequency of hot temperatures -- that is, temperatures that exceeded 82 degrees Fahrenheit -increased two-fold in Colorado and four-fold in California over the past 40 years.

In response to these temperature fluctuations, modern caterpillars in Colorado ate faster at higher temperatures than their 1970s counterparts. In California, the modern caterpillars ate faster at both high and low temperatures than did their ancestors, but their optimal feeding temperatures did not change.

"These two species of caterpillars adapted to the increased frequency of higher temperatures over 40 years in two different ways, but both are better suited than their ancestors to thrive in a hotter, more variable climate," says Higgins. "Our climate is changing. The thermal physiology of these species is changing, too."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The original article was written by Thania Benios. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jessica K. Higgins, Heidi J. MacLean, Lauren B. Buckley, Joel G. Kingsolver. Geographic differences and microevolutionary changes in thermal sensitivity of butterfly larvae in response to climate. Functional Ecology, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.12218

Cite This Page:

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Modern caterpillars feed at higher temperatures in response to climate change." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131219093558.htm>.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (2013, December 19). Modern caterpillars feed at higher temperatures in response to climate change. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131219093558.htm
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Modern caterpillars feed at higher temperatures in response to climate change." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131219093558.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands of Fish Dead in Mexico Lake

Raw: Thousands of Fish Dead in Mexico Lake

AP (Sep. 2, 2014) — Over 53 tons of rotting fish have been removed from Lake Cajititlan in western Jalisco state. Authorities say that the thousands of fish did not die of natural causes. (Sep. 2) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Iceland Volcano Spewing Smoke

Raw: Iceland Volcano Spewing Smoke

AP (Sep. 2, 2014) — The alert warning for the area surrounding Iceland's Bardarbunga volcano was kept at orange on Tuesday, indicating increased unrest with greater potential for an eruption. Smoke is spewing from the volcano, and lava is spouting nearby. (Sept. 2) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) — The U.N. says the problem is two-fold — quarantine zones and travel restrictions are limiting the movement of both people and food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sharks Off the Menu and on the Tourist Trail in Palau

Sharks Off the Menu and on the Tourist Trail in Palau

AFP (Sep. 2, 2014) — Tourists in Palau clamour to dive with sharks thanks to a pioneering conservation initiative -- as the island nation plans to completely ban commercial fishing in its vast ocean territory. 01:15 Video provided by AFP
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