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.

Related Articles


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 March 26, 2015 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 March 26, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Clean-Up Follows Deadly Weather in Okla.

Clean-Up Follows Deadly Weather in Okla.

AP (Mar. 26, 2015) Gov. Mary Fallin has declared a state of emergency for 25 Oklahoma counties after powerful storms rumbled across the state causing one death, numerous injuries and widespread damage. (March 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least Four Dead After Floods in Northern Chile

At Least Four Dead After Floods in Northern Chile

Reuters - News Video Online (Mar. 26, 2015) At least four people have been killed by severe flooding in northern Chile after rains battered the Andes mountains and swept into communities below. Rob Muir reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Oklahomans "devastated" By Tornado Damage

Oklahomans "devastated" By Tornado Damage

Reuters - US Online Video (Mar. 26, 2015) Buildings and homes lay in ruins and a semi-truck gets flipped following a fierce tornado that left at least one person dead. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tornado Tears Through Oklahoma Town

Tornado Tears Through Oklahoma Town

Reuters - US Online Video (Mar. 26, 2015) Aerial video shows the moment a tornado ripped across the town of Moore, Oklahoma, sending sparks flying. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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