, 157:583 | Cite as

The response of two butterfly species to climatic variation at the edge of their range and the implications for poleward range shifts

  • Jessica J. HellmannEmail author
  • Shannon L. Pelini
  • Kirsten M. Prior
  • Jason D. K. Dzurisin
Population Ecology - Original Paper


To predict changes in species’ distributions due to climate change we must understand populations at the poleward edge of species’ ranges. Ecologists generally expect range shifts under climate change caused by the expansion of edge populations as peripheral conditions increasingly resemble the range core. We tested whether peripheral populations of two contrasting butterflies, a small-bodied specialist (Erynnis propertius) and a large-bodied generalist (Papilio zelicaon), respond favorably to warmer conditions. Performance of populations related to climate was evaluated in seven peripheral populations spanning 1.2° latitude (160 km) using: (1) population density surveys, an indirect measure of site suitability; and (2) organismal fitness in translocation experiments. There was evidence that population density increased with temperature for P. zelicaon whose population density declined with latitude in 1 of 3 sample years. On the other hand, E. propertius showed a positive relationship of population density with latitude, apparently unrelated to climate or measured habitat variables. Translocation experiments showed increased larval production at increased temperatures for both species, and in P. zelicaon, larval production also increased under drier conditions. These findings suggest that both species may increase at their range edge with warming but the preference for core-like conditions may be stronger in P. zelicaon. Further, populations of E. propertius at the range boundary may be large enough to act as sources of colonists for range expansions, but range expansion in this species may be prevented by a lack of available host plants further north. In total, the species appear to respond differently to climate and other factors that vary latitudinally, factors that will likely affect poleward expansion.


Erynnis propertius Climate change Geographic range Larval production Lepidoptera 



This work was supported by the Office of Science (BER), US Department of Energy, grant no. DE-FG02-05ER-64023. It also was funded by the Endangered Species Recovery Fund of World Wildlife Canada and Environment Canada, and by the University of British Columbia. Thank you to J. Myers, GOERT, J. Heron, and R. Bennett for consultation and to the following for site access: Department of National Defence (A. Robinson); Government House (F. Spencer); CRD Parks (T. Fleming and M. Simpson); BC Parks (D. Closson and W. Woodhouse); Nature Conservancy of Canada (T. Ennis); and the High Salal Strata Corporation (M. Rabena). The following people assisted on this project: D. Beauchamp, G. Chavez, G. Crutsinger, J. V. Hellmann, L. LaTarte, T. Marsico, K. McKendry, and N. Vargas. The following provided valuable comments on the manuscript: R. Bennett, P. Ehrlich, T. Marsico, T. Ricketts, E. Zakharov, and two anonymous reviewers.


  1. Avise JC (1994) Molecular markers, natural history and evolution. Chapman and Hall, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Bale JS, Master GJ, Hodkinson ID, Awmack C, Bezemer TM, Brown VK, Butterflied J, Buse A, Coulson JC, Farrar J, Good JEG, Harrington R, Hartley S, Jones TH, Lindroth RL, Pres MC, Symrniousids I, Watt AD, Whittaker JB (2002) Herbivory in global climate change research: direct effects of rising temperatures on insect herbivores. Global Change Biol 8:1–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Benrey B, Denno RF (1997) The slow-growth-high mortality hypothesis: a test using the cabbage butterfly. Ecology 78:987–999Google Scholar
  4. Bernays EA (1997) Feeding by lepidopteran larvae is dangerous. Ecol Entomol 22:121–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bohonak AJ (1999) Dispersal, gene flow, and population structure. Quart Rev Biol 74:21–45PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bossart JT, Prowell DP (1998) Genetic estimates of population structure and gene flow: limitations, lessons and new directions. Trends Ecol Evol 12:202–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brouat C, Sennedot F, Audiot P, Leblois R, Rasplus J-Y (2003) Fine-scale genetic structure of two carabid species with contrasted levels of habitat specialization. Mol Ecol 12:1731–1745PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brown JH (1984) On the relationship between abundance and distribution. Am Nat 124:255–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brown JA, Boyce MS (1998) Line transect sampling of Karner blue butterlflies (Lycaeides Melissa samuelis). Environ Ecol Stat 5:81–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brown JH, Steves GC, Kaufman DM (1996) The geographic range: size, shape, boundaries, and internal structure. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 27:597–623CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Boggs CL (1986) Reproductive strategies of female butterflies: variation in and constraints on fecundity. Ecol Entomol 11:7–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Caughley G, Grice D, Barker R, Brown B (1998) The edge of the range. J Anim Ecol 57:771–785Google Scholar
  13. Case TJ, Taper ML (2000) Interspecific competition, environmental gradients, gene flow, and the coevolution of species’ borders. Am Nat 155:583–605PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chapin FS III, Chapin MC (1981) Ecotypic differentiation of growth processes in Carex aquatilis along latitudinal and local gradients. Ecology 62:1000–1009CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chapin FS IV, Oechel WC (1983) Photosynthesis, respiration, and phosphate absorption by Carex aquatilis ecotypes along latitudinal and local environmental gradients. Ecology 64:743–751CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Clancy KM, Price PW (1987) Rapid herbivore growth enhances enemy attack: sublethal plant defenses remain a paradox. Ecology 68:733–737CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Clausen J, Keck DD, Hiesey WM (1940) Experimental studies on the nature of species. I. Effect of varied environment on western North American plants. Publication 520. Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  18. Cowley MJR, Thomas CD, Roy DB, Wilson RJ, León-Cortés JL, Gutiérrez BulmanR, Quinn R, Moss D, Gaston KJ (2001) Density-dependent relationships in British butterflies. I. The effect of mobility and spatial scale. J Anim Ecol 70:410–425CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Crozier LG (2003) Winter warming facilitates range expansion: cold tolerance of the butterfly Atalopedes campestris. Oecologia 135:648–656PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Crozier LG (2004a) Field transplants reveal summer constraints on a butterfly range expansion. Oecologia 141:148–157PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Crozier LG (2004b) Warmer winters drive butterfly range expansion by increasing survivorship. Ecology 85:231–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Crozier LG, Dwyer G (2006) Combining population-dynamic and ecophysiological models to predict climate-induced insect range shifts. Am Nat 167:853–866CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Davis MB, Shaw RG (2001) Range shifts and adaptive responses to quaternary climate change. Science 292:673–679PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dettinger MD, Cayan DR, Diaz HF, Meko DM (1998) North-south precipitation patterns in western North America on interannual-to-decadal timescales. J Clim 11:2095–3111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Eckhart VW, Geber MA, McGuire C (2004) Experimental studies of selection and adaptation in Clarkia xantiana (Onagraceae). I. Sources of phenotypic variation across a subspecies border. Evolution 58:59–70PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Etterson JR (2004) Evolutionary potential of Chamaecrita fasciculate in relation to climate change. II. Genetic architecture of three populations reciprocally planted along an environmental gradient in the Great Plains. Evolution 58:1459–1471PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Etterson JR, Shaw RG (2001) Constraint to adaptive evolution in response to global warming. Science 294:151–154PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Fordyce JA, Shapiro AM (2003) Another perspective on the slow-growth/high-mortality hypothesis: chilling effects on swallowtail larvae. Ecology 84:263–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. García-Barros E (2000) Body size, egg size, and their interspecific relationships with ecological and life history traits in butterflies (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae, Hesperioidea). Biol J Linn Soc 70:251–284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. García-Ramos G, Kirkpatrick M (1997) Genetic models of adaptation and gene flow in peripheral populations. Evolution 51:21–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gaston KJ (2003) The structure and dynamics of geographic ranges. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  32. Geber MA, Eckhart VM (2005) Experimental studies of selection and adaptation in Clarkia xantiana (Onagraceae). II. Fitness variation across a subspecies border. Evolution 59:521–531PubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Guppy CS, Shepard JH (2001) Butterflies of British Columbia. UBC Press, VancouverGoogle Scholar
  34. Hampe A, Petit RJ (2005) Conserving biodiversity under climate change: the rear edge matters. Ecol Lett 8:461–467CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hellmann JJ (2001) Butterflies as model systems for understanding and predicting climate change. In: Schneider SH, Root TL (eds) Wildlife responses to climate change: North American case studies. Island Press, Washington, pp 93–126Google Scholar
  36. Hellmann JJ (2002) The effect of an environmental change on mobile butterfly larvae and the nutritional quality of their hosts. J Anim Ecol 70:925–936CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hengeveld R, Haeck J (1982) The distribution of abundance. I. Measurements. J Biogeogr 9:303–316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hiesey WM, Nobs NA, Bjorkman O (1971) Experimental studies on the nature of species. V. Biosystematics, genetics, and physiological ecology of the erythranthe section of mimulus. Publication 628. Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  39. Hill JK, Thomas CD, Huntley B (1999) Climate and habitat availability determine 20th century changes in a butterfly’s range margin. Proc R Soc Lond B 266:1197–1206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hoffman AA, Blows MW (1994) Species borders: ecological and evolutionary perspectives. Trends Ecol Evol 9:223–227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Holt RD, Keitt TH, Lewis MA, Maurer BA, Taper ML (2005) Theoretical models of species’ borders: single species approaches. Oikos 108:18–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Honěk A (1993) Interspecific variation in body size and fecundity in insects: a general relationship. Oikos 66:483–492CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Huey RB, Stevenson RD (1979) Integrating thermal physiology and ecology of ecotherms: a discussion of approaches. Am Zool 19:357–366Google Scholar
  44. Karlsson B, Wickman P-O (1990) Increase in reproductive effort as explained by body size and resource allocation in the speckled wood butterfly, Pararge aegeria (L.). Funct Ecol 4:609–617CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kingsolver JG (1989) Weather and population dynamics of insects: integrating physiology and population ecology. Physiol Zool 62:314–334Google Scholar
  46. Kirkpatrick M, Barton NH (1997) Evolution of a species’ range. Am Nat 150:1–23CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Klinka K, Qian H, Pojar J, Del Meidinger V (1996) Classification of natural forest communities of coastal British Columbia, Canada. Plant Ecol 125:149–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Lawton JH (1993) Range, population abundance and conservation. Trends in Ecol Evol 8:409–413CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Loik ME, Nobel PS (1993) Freezing tolerance and water relations of Opuntia fragilis from Canada and the United States. Ecology 74:1722–1732CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. MacDougall AS (2005) Response of diversity and invasibility to burning in a northern oak savanna. Ecology 86:3354–3363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Mayr E (1963) Animal species and evolution. Belknap, HarvardGoogle Scholar
  52. McLachlan J, Hellmann JJ, Schwartz M (2007) Is assisted dispersal in a time of climate change a bold management step of naïve ecological tinkering? Conserv Biol 21:297–302PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Merrill RM, Gutiérrez D, Lewis OT, Gutiérrez J, Diez SB, Wilson RJ (2008) Combined effects of climate and biotic interactions on the elevational range of a phytophagous insect. J Anim Ecol 77:145–155PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Oberhauser KS (1997) Fecundity, lifespan and egg mass in butterflies: effects of male-derived nutrients and female size. Funct Ecol 11:166–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Opler PA (1999) Peterson field guide to western butterflies, revised edn. Houghton Mifflin, BostonGoogle Scholar
  56. Parmesan C, Ryrholm N, Stefanescu C, Hill JK, Thomas CD, Descimon H, Huntley B, Kaila L, Kullberg J, Tammaur T, Tennent WJ, Thomas JA, Warren M (1999) Poleward shifts in geographical ranges of butterfly species associated with warming. Nature 299:579–583CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Parmesan C, Gaines S, Gonzalez L, Kaufman DM, Kingsolver J, Peterson AT, Sagarin R (2005) Empirical perspectives on species borders: from traditional biogeography to global change. Oikos 108:58–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Päivinen J, Grapputo A, Kaitala V, Komonen A, Kotiaho JS, Saarinen K, Wahlberg N (2005) Negative density-distribution relationships in butterflies. BMC Biol 3:5PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Pearson RG, Dawson TP (2003) Predicting the impact of climate change on the distribution for species: are bioclimate envelope models useful? Global Ecol Biogeogr 12:361–371CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Pollard E (1977) A method for assessing changes in the abundance of butterflies. Biol Conserv 12:115–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Pollard E, Yates TJ (1993) Monitoring butterflies for ecology and conservation. Champan and Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  62. Ratte HT (1984) Temperature and insect development. In: Hoffman KH (ed) Environmental physiology and biochemistry of insects. Springer, Berlin, pp 33–66Google Scholar
  63. Root TL, Price JR, Hall KR, Schneider SH, Rosenzweig C, Pounds JA (2003) Fingerprints of global warming on wild animals and plants. Nature 421:57–60PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Ropelewski CF, Halbert MS (1986) North American precipitation and temperature patterns associated with the El Niño/South Oscillation (ENSO). Mon Weather Rev 114:2352–2362CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Rothery P, Roy DB (2001) Application of generalized additive models to butterfly transect count data. J Appl Stat 28:897–909CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Schmidt KP, Levin DA (1985) The comparative demography of reciprocally sown populations of Phlox drummondii Hook. I. Survivorships, fecundities, and finite rates of increase. Evolution 39:395–404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Scott JA (1986) The butterflies of North America: a natural history and field guide. Stanford University Press, StanfordGoogle Scholar
  68. Scriber JM, Tsubaki Y, Lederhouse RC (1995) Swallowtail butterflies: their ecology and evolutionary biology. Scientific Publishers, GainesvilleGoogle Scholar
  69. Shapiro AM (1995) From the mountains to the prairies to the oceans white with foam: Papilio zelicaon makes itself at home. In: Kneckeberg R, Walker RB, Levinton (eds) Geneology and biogeographic races. Pacific Division AAAS, San Francisco, pp 840–852Google Scholar
  70. Sharpe PJ, DeMichele DW (1977) Reaction kinetics of poikilotherm development. J Theor Biol 64:649–670PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Slansky F (1993) Nutritional ecology: the fundamental quest for nutrients. In: Stamp NE, Casey TM (eds) Caterpillars: ecological and evolutionary constraints on foraging. Chapman and Hall, New York, pp 29–91Google Scholar
  72. Stearns SC (1992) The evolution of life histories. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  73. Thomas CD, Jordano D, Lewis OT, Hill JK, Sutcliffe O, Thomas JA (1998) Butterfly distributional patterns, processes and conservation. In: Mace GM, Balmford A, Ginsberg JG (eds) Conservation in a changing world. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 107–138Google Scholar
  74. Thomas CD, Bodsworth EJ, Wilson RJ, Simmons AD, Davies ZG, Musche M, Conradt L (2001) Ecological and evolutionary processes at expanding range margins. Nature 411:577–581PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Thomas JA, Rose RJ, Clarke RT, Thomas CD, Webb NR (1999) Intraspecific variation in habitat availability among ectothermic animals near the climatic limits and their centres of range. Funct Ecol 13(S1):55–64Google Scholar
  76. vanNouhuys S, Hanski I (2004) Natural enemies of checkerspots. In: Ehrlich PR, Hanski I (eds) On the wings of checkerspots: a model system for population biology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 161–180Google Scholar
  77. Webb T, Bartlein PJ (1992) Global changes during the last three million years: climatic controls and biotic responses. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 23:141–173Google Scholar
  78. Wehling WF (1994) Geography of host use, oviposition preference, and gene flow in the anise swallowtail butterfly (Papilio zelicaon). PhD dissertation, Washington State University, PullmanGoogle Scholar
  79. Wright S (1931) Evolution in Mendelian populations. Genetics 16:97–259PubMedGoogle Scholar
  80. Wright S (1943) Isolation by distance. Genetics 28:139–156PubMedGoogle Scholar
  81. Zakharov EV, Hellmann JJ (2008) Genetic differentiation across a latitudinal gradient in two co-occurring butterfly species: revealing population differences in a context of climate change. Mol Ecol 71:198–208Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jessica J. Hellmann
    • 1
    Email author
  • Shannon L. Pelini
    • 1
  • Kirsten M. Prior
    • 1
  • Jason D. K. Dzurisin
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA

Personalised recommendations