New research shows that butterflies in Greenland have become smaller in response to increasing temperatures due to climate change
New research shows that butterflies in Greenland have become smaller in response to increasing temperatures due to climate change.
Arctic fritillary (Boloria chariclea) is one of the two species that have become smaller due to climate change. This is demonstrated in a new study by Danish researchers. The scientists have measured the wing length of nearly 4,500 individuals collected annually between 1996 and 2013 from Zackenberg, Greenland and found that the blade length decreased significantly in response to warmer summers.
Photo: Toke T. Hoye
It has often been demonstrated that the ongoing rapid climate change in the Arctic region is causing substantial change to Arctic ecosystems. Now Danish researchers demonstrate that a warmer Greenland could be bad for its butterflies, becoming smaller under warmer summers.
Researchers from Aarhus University have measured wing length of nearly 4,500 individuals collected annually between 1996 and 2013 from Zackenberg Research Station in Northeast Greenland, and found that wing length has decreased significantly in response to warmer summers and at the same rate for both species investigated.
"Our studies show that males and females follow the same pattern and it is similar in two different species, which suggests that climate plays an important role in determining the body size of butterflies in Northeast Greenland," says senior scientist Toke T. Hoye, Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Aarhus University.
Only very few field studies have been able to follow changes in the body size of the same species over a period where the climate has changed and this is the longest known time series on body size variation in butterflies, of which we are aware.
The larvae change metabolism
Body size change in response to rising temperature is an anticipated response to climate change, but few studies have actually demonstrated it in the field.
The response can go both ways; for some animal species, a longer feeding season results in increased body size, and for others the changes in metabolism causes a net loss of energy which reduces the body size.
The results of the new study are consistent with earlier lab experiments and broad spatial scale studies suggesting that higher temperatures during rearing result in smaller adult body size.
"We humans use more energy when it is cold, because we must maintain a constant body temperature. But for butterfly larvae and other cold-blooded animals whose body temperature depends on the environment, the metabolism increases at higher temperatures because the biochemical processes are simply faster. Therefore, the larvae use more energy than they are able to gain from feeding. Our results indicate that this change is so significant that larval growth rate decreases. And when the larvae are smaller, the adult butterflies will also be smaller," explains Toke T. Hoye.
Arctic species under pressure
The consequences for the Arctic butterflies can be quite substantial. Smaller body size means that the butterflies are less mobile. As the species only live in the far North, the development could have significant consequences for their population dynamics and future geographic range.
"These butterfly species are under pressure from multiple sides. They live so far North that they cannot move to cooler regions, and they will probably disappear from the southernmost part of their range due to the warming temperatures. In addition, their dispersal capacity is deteriorating, and smaller body size may result in lower fecundity, so these Arctic species could face severe challenges in response to ongoing rapid climate change," says Toke T. Hoye.
Butterflies belong to a group of organisms that are particularly sensitive to changes in the environment. Therefore, long-term studies of butterflies and other insects are particularly suited to demonstrate the ecological consequences of global climate change.
The study has been carried out by researchers from Arctic Research Centre, Institute of Bioscience and Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies at Aarhus University and Aarhus Natural History Museum, Denmark, and University of California.
The results have been published in the scientific journal Biology Letters.
For more information, please contact:
Senior scientist Toke T. Hoye
Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Arctic Research Centre, and Department of Bioscience
Aarhus University, Denmark
Tel. +45 3018 3122
Joseph J. Bowden
Arctic Research Centre, Aarhus University, Denmark
Tel: +45 2973 9698
Toke T. Hoye | EurekAlert!
Fine organic particles in the atmosphere are more often solid glass beads than liquid oil droplets
21.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie
Study overturns seminal research about the developing nervous system
21.04.2017 | University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...
Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.
A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy