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World Key to butterfly climate survival may be colour coded

10:01  24 september  2020
10:01  24 september  2020 Source:   msn.com

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While all butterflies are ectotherms — they cannot generate their own body heat — the ability to regulate temperature varies significantly, researchers said. The study found that species that struggle to moderate their body temperatures often rely on being able to escape the full heat of the sun in shaded

Although butterflies can be a good indicator of climate change, colonisation of newly-suitable sites can be severely affected by land-use changes that lead to large gaps between These results suggest that, providing there is little risk, assisted colonisation might be a cost-effective tool for conservation."

A butterfly's ability to absorb or reflect heat from the sun with its wings could be a matter of life and death in a warming world, according to British research published Thursday calling for gardens, parks and farms to host shady, cooling-off spots.

a small bird perched on a tree branch: The study found that bigger, pale-coloured butterflies, like this Brimstone, are better at thermoregulation © Andrew BLADON The study found that bigger, pale-coloured butterflies, like this Brimstone, are better at thermoregulation a man is sitting in the grass: Researchers took the temperature of the butterflies they caught using a tiny thermometer © Eleanor BLANDON Researchers took the temperature of the butterflies they caught using a tiny thermometer

While all butterflies are ectotherms -- they cannot generate their own body heat -- the ability to regulate temperature varies significantly, researchers said.

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The epic 3,000-mile monarch butterfly migration may become a thing of the past. The twin forces of human-caused climate change and habitat loss are now threatening North American monarch butterflies with extinction. Nectar-rich flowers are important for monarchs’ continued survival .

Monarch butterflies are found across America, but are generally broken into eastern and western groups by the natural divide of the Rocky Mountains. Yet changing landscapes and climates mean their long journey is increasingly fraught with danger. Roads alone pose a big threat to butterflies .

The study found that species that struggle to moderate their body temperatures often rely on being able to escape the full heat of the sun in shaded "microclimates" to survive. 

These butterflies are "likely to suffer the most from climate change and habitat loss," said lead author Andrew Bladon, of the University of Cambridge's Department of Zoology.

Researchers said the cooler niches they rely on have dwindled as habitat is lost and fragmented, driving population decline in two-thirds of butterfly species in Britain.

This is exacerbated by extreme weather events and temperature fluctuations made worse by climate change, they said.

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Climate change leading to hotter winters in Mexico, where the species overwinters, is drying out and killing the trees the butterfly depends on. Monarch Butterflies are migratory. They live in the northern region of the continent during the Colors begin to pale as the butterfly becomes weathered.

Thanks to climate change, butterflies are flying more frequently, further and longer. This makes it easier for them to cope with a fragmented landscape, says Wageningen University doctoral researcher Anouk Cormont in an article in Biodiversity and Conservation.

To measure how different butterflies cope with temperature change, researchers captured 4,000 wild specimens from 29 species, combing across several UK sites in monthly surveys from April to September 2009 and May to September in 2018. 

a hand holding a small animal: Species that rely on shaded areas, such as the Small Copper butterfly, have suffered steeper population declines over the last 40 years © Andrew BLADON Species that rely on shaded areas, such as the Small Copper butterfly, have suffered steeper population declines over the last 40 years

They recorded the behaviour of each butterfly and then -- if they could catch it in their nets -- took its temperature using a tiny, 0.25-millimetre thick thermometer.

The study found that bigger, pale-coloured butterflies, like the Large White or Brimstone species, are better at thermoregulation because they can angle their wings to reflect the sun's heat either away from them or onto their bodies to attain the right temperature.

- Population decline -

Researchers said that these species had either stable or growing populations.

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Climate change adversely affects integral parts of the Monarch’s life cycle. Rising temperatures in the region change the climate cues for Monarchs that Migration is an integral part of Monarch Butterfly survival . As the weather begins to cool in parts of Canada and the United States, Monarchs begin

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But among species with smaller or more colourful wings, they found a less rosy picture, particularly among the "thermal specialists" that use shade to cool down.

These species, such as the Small Copper butterfly, have suffered steeper population declines over the last 40 years, according to the study, which was published in the Journal of Animal Ecology.  

a insect on the ground: Colourful larger species, like this Peacock, struggle to moderate their temperature, but they do better than smaller butterflies © Andrew BLADON Colourful larger species, like this Peacock, struggle to moderate their temperature, but they do better than smaller butterflies

Bladon said landscapes must become more diverse in order to protect a range of butterfly species. 

"Even within a garden lawn, patches of grass can be left to grow longer -- these areas will provide cooler, shady places for many species of butterfly," he said in a university press release.  

"We also need to protect features that break up the monotony of farm landscapes, like hedgerows, ditches, and patches of woodland."

Insects including butterflies are the world's top pollinators -- 75 percent of top global food crops depend on animal pollination, according to the UN.

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The tiny Miami blue butterfly , reduced to a few hundred survivors on isolated islands off Key West, will be formally declared a federally endangered species on Friday. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission.

Millions of the butterflies travel between the winter homes in central Mexico and California and their summer homes further north in the U.S. They travel northward through the warm months until the weather starts to turn cooler, triggering a return to the south.

- Food fears -

In another study also published on Thursday, researchers from the University of Michigan found that projected temperature increases may lead to alterations in the wing shape of North American Monarch Butterflies and could impede their annual migration. 

a bird sitting on a branch: Many Monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico where they spend the winter © Enrique Castro Many Monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico where they spend the winter

Researchers reared Monarch larvae at 25 degrees Celsius or an elevated 28C feeding them on three species of milkweed -- common, swamp and tropical.

Each of these contain cardenolides, a steroid stored by Monarch butterfly larvae as a chemical defence against predators and an antibiotic against parasites that can be toxic at higher concentrations, researchers said.

Cardenolide levels are particularly high in tropical milkweed, which has proliferated due to warming temperatures.

The researchers found that larvae reared in warmer temperatures flew for shorter periods and over a reduced distance, while also expending more energy per distance measured.

The study, published in the Journal of Insect Conservation, also found that those that had been fed the cardenolide-rich tropical milkweed had shorter and wider forewings.

Researchers said these rounder wings were less efficient for long distance flight than long narrow wings that can be used for energy-saving gliding, concluding that this could hamper annual migration.

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Most Monarchs in North America travel several thousand kilometres to spend the winter in Mexico where they mate.

The study said monarch populations had seen a "drastic" decline in the last decades, with those migrating east dropping around 80 percent, while numbers migrating westward have declined by 99 percent since the 1980s. 

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