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Oecologia

, Volume 75, Issue 2, pp 222–227 | Cite as

Behavioral and ecological interactions of foraging mice (Peromyscus melanotis) with overwintering monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) in México

  • John I. Glendinning
  • Alfonso Alonso Mejia
  • Lincoln P. Brower
Original Papers

Summary

Mice (Peromyscus melanotis) immigrate extensively to overwintering colonies of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) in México. There they feed on both live and dead butterflies that accumulate on the ground and in low vegetation. Through a series of feeding experiments, we examined the potential impact of mouse predation on these colonies, as well as how this predation was influenced by the accessibility and the degree of desiccation of the monarchs. Mice attacked on average 39.9 wet (freshlykilled) butterflies per night. We estimated that a population of mice (75–105 individuals) could kill approximately 0.40–0.57 million butterflies in a 1 ha colony (4–5.7% of the colony) over the 135-day overwintering season. In feeding experiments, mice fed disproportionately on: 1) wet (hydrated) monarchs close to the ground versus those perched higher; 2) wet monarchs, when both wet and dry (desiccated) monarchs were on the ground; and 3) wet monarchs on stakes versus dry monarchs on the ground. Mice commonly ate the entire abdomen of dry monarchs, whereas they fed selectively on the abdomen of wet monarchs by discarding the bitter, cardenolide-laden cuticle and eating the internal tissues. These results suggest that the monarchs' state of desiccation is more important than their accessibility in determining the feeding preferences of these mice. However, the monarchs' strong tendency to crawl up vegetation does appear to reduce their risk to mouse predation.

Key words

Insectivory Selective feeding behavior Peromyscus melanotis Overwintering Danaus plexippus Defensrve crawling behavior in butterflies 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • John I. Glendinning
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Alfonso Alonso Mejia
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Lincoln P. Brower
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Departmento de Ecología, Instituto de BiologíaUniversidad Nacional Autonoma de MéxicoM≍icoMéxico
  3. 3.Department of ZoologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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