Thermal ecology of the Glanville Fritillary butterfly (Melitaea cinxia)

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Date

2012-08

Authors

Advani, Nikhil Kishore

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Abstract

Anthropogenic climate warming is predicted to accelerate over the next century, with potentially dramatic consequences for wildlife. It is important to understand as well as possible how different organisms will respond to this stress. This project seeks to gain a better mechanistic understanding of the thermal biology of the Glanville Fritillary butterfly (Melitaea cinxia) at the latitudinal and elevational extremes of its range. Investigation of the temperatures at which adult butterflies took spontaneous flight revealed a significant difference between populations from the elevational extremes, with insects from high elevation taking flight at lower thoracic temperatures than those from low elevation. Contrary to expectation, there was no systematic effect of latitude on takeoff temperature. If these measures represent adaptation to climate, then these effects are not simple and the influences of elevation and latitude are not the same. Investigation of thermal tolerance across all life cycle stages found no difference in larval performance between the populations tested. There was however an effect of treatment. This suggests that in M. cinxia, even populations from different extremes of the range may not differ in their thermal tolerance. The effect of treatment suggests that there is temperature-induced plasticity. The adaptive significance of this has been explored to some extent. Investigation of heat shock protein expression between the latitudinal extremes finds no difference in Hsp21.4 expression when exposed to heat stress, however both Hsp20.4 and Hsp90 were upregulated in response to heat stress. For Hsp20.4, there were significant differences in expression between the populations. Finally, a species distribution model using maximum entropy techniques was conducted for M. cinxia, predicting both the current and future (2100) distributions of the species. The model closely matches the known current distribution, and predicts a clear northward range shift in response to climate change.

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