Zeitschrift für vergleichende Physiologie

, Volume 68, Issue 3, pp 334–344 | Cite as

Thoracic temperature, shivering, and flight in the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus (L.)

  • Ann E. Kammer


Monarch butterflies, Danaus plexippus (L.), display a warm-up behavior characterized by wingstrokes of small amplitude. Thoracic temperature during this shivering and during fixed flight was measured by means of a smallbead thermistor inserted into the thorax. At ambient temperatures of 15–16°C, once shivering is initiated the thoracic temperature rises at a maximum rate of 1.3°C/min, and a thoracic temperature 4.0°C greater then ambient is produced (Table 1). Fixed flight at these low ambient temperatures results in a similar rate of increase in thoracic temperature, and a similar temperature excess is produced (Fig. 3). At ambient temperatures between 22 and 35°C the thoracic temperature of an animal starting to fly rises at a faster rate, 3.6°C/min, and reaches a greater excess, 7.9°C (Fig. 4). The wingbeat frequency of animals in fixed flight increases with increasing thoracic temperature (Fig. 2). In the absence of direct solar radiation, shivering typically occurs prior to flight at low ambient temperatures (13–17°C), and the resulting increase in thoracic temperature allows monarch butterflies to fly at these cool temperatures.


Radiation Ambient Temperature Solar Radiation Maximum Rate Fast Rate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adams, P. A., Heath, J. E.: Temperature regulation in the sphinx moth, Celerio lineata. Nature (Lond.) 201, 20–22 (1964).Google Scholar
  2. Brower, J. V. Z.: Experimental studies of mimicry in some North American butterflies. I. The monarch, Danaus plexippus, and the viceroy, Limenitis archippus archippus. Evolution 12, 32–47 (1958).Google Scholar
  3. Brower, L. P., Brower, J. V. Z., Corvino, J. M.: Plant poisons in a terrestrial food chain. Proc. nat. Acad. Sci. (Wash.) 57, 893–898 (1967).Google Scholar
  4. —, Ryerson, W. N., Coppinger, L. L., Glazier, S. C.: Ecological chemistry and the palatability spectrum. Science 161, 1349–1351 (1968).Google Scholar
  5. Church, N. S.: Heat loss and the body temperature of flying insects. II. Heat conduction within the body and its loss by radiation and convection. J. exp. Biol. 37, 186–212 (1960).Google Scholar
  6. Clench, H. K.: Behavioral thermoregulation in butterflies. Ecology 47, 1021–1034 (1966).Google Scholar
  7. Dorsett, D. A.: Preparation for flight by hawk-moths. J. exp. Biol. 39, 579–588 (1962).Google Scholar
  8. Dotterweich, H.: Beiträge zur Nervenphysiologie der Insekten. Zool. Jb. (Abt. allg. Zool. Physiol. Tiere) 44, 399–450 (1928).Google Scholar
  9. Heath, J. E., Adams, P. A.: Temperature regulation in the sphinx moth during flight. Nature (Lond.) 205, 309–310 (1965).Google Scholar
  10. —: Regulation of heat production by large moths. J. exp. Biol. 47, 21–33 (1967).Google Scholar
  11. Kammer, A. E.: Muscle activity during flight in some large Lepidoptera. J. exp. Biol. 47, 277–295 (1967).Google Scholar
  12. —: Motor patterns during flight and warm-up in Lepidoptera. J. exp. Biol. 48, 89–109 (1968).Google Scholar
  13. - Influence of acclimation temperature on the shivering behavior of monarch butterflies (In ms., 1970).Google Scholar
  14. Krogh, A., Zeuthen, E.: The mechanism of flight preparation in some insects. J. exp. Biol. 18, 1–10 (1941).Google Scholar
  15. Urquhart, F. A.: The monarch butterfly. Toronto: Univ. Toronto Press 1960.Google Scholar
  16. Vielmetter, W.: Physiologie des Verhaltens zur Sonnenstrahlung bei dem Tagfalter Argynnis paphia L. — I. Untersuchungen im Freiland. J. Insect Physiol. 2, 13–37 (1958).Google Scholar
  17. Watt, W. B.: Adaptive significance of pigment polymorphisms in Colias butterflies. I. Variation of melanin pigment in relation to thermoregulation. Evolution 22, 437–458 (1968).Google Scholar
  18. —: Adaptive significance of pigment polymorphisms in Colias butterflies, II. Thermoregulation and photoperiodically controlled melanin variation in Colias eurytheme. Proc. nat. Acad. Sci. (Wash.) 63, 767–774 (1969).Google Scholar
  19. Weis-Fogh, T.: Biology and physics of locust flight. VIII. Lift and metabolic rate of flying locusts. J. exp. Biol. 41, 257–271 (1964).Google Scholar
  20. Wigglesworth, V. B.: The principles of insect physiology. London: Methuen 1965.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1970

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ann E. Kammer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavis

Personalised recommendations