Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 20, Issue 10, pp 2273–2295

A mobility index for Canadian butterfly species based on naturalists’ knowledge

  • Ryan J. Burke
  • Jay M. Fitzsimmons
  • Jeremy T. Kerr
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10531-011-0088-y

Cite this article as:
Burke, R.J., Fitzsimmons, J.M. & Kerr, J.T. Biodivers Conserv (2011) 20: 2273. doi:10.1007/s10531-011-0088-y


Mobility is a key component of species’ biology. Research on mobility is inherently difficult, however, resulting in studies of narrow taxonomic, spatial, and temporal scope with results that are difficult to compare between studies. We had three goals for our research: (1) construct a data set of mobility estimates for the butterfly species of Canada based on naturalists’ knowledge; (2) develop methods to evaluate aspects of accuracy and precision for knowledge-based ecological research such as ours; and (3) using our data set, test mobility-related hypotheses of species-level relationships. We distributed a questionnaire to amateur and professional lepidopterists in Canada and northern USA, asking them to estimate the mobility of Canadian butterfly species based on their field experience. Based on responses from 51 lepidopterists with approximately 800 years of combined field experience, we received mobility estimates for almost all (291 out of 307) of Canada’s butterfly taxa. Mobility estimates were consistent among respondents and were not affected by respondent expertise. Mobility carries a strong phylogenetic signal and is positively related to wingspan (albeit weakly), range size, and host plant breadth, and negatively related to conservation risk. Reliance upon naturalists’ experience was essential to the feasibility of our project, and provides a promising method for many types of ecological research.


Dispersal Expert opinion Lepidoptera Life-history strategy Local ecological knowledge Movement ecology Naturalists Phylogenetic signal Questionnaire Range size 





Akaike’s Information Criterion


False discovery rate


Generalized least squares


Independent contrast


Local ecological knowledge


Ordinary least squares




Principal Components Analysis

Supplementary material

10531_2011_88_MOESM1_ESM.xls (133 kb)
File S1. Questionnaire file sent to lepidopterists (XLS 133 kb)
10531_2011_88_MOESM2_ESM.nex (26 kb)
File S2. DNA-based and all-species phylogenetic trees’ source code (NEX 27 kb)
10531_2011_88_MOESM3_ESM.xls (115 kb)
File S3. Canadian butterfly species mobility index. Includes mean, standard deviation, and number of respondents for mobility estimates for 291 taxa along with wingspan, range size, larval diet breadth, and conservation values for these taxa (XLS 115 kb)
10531_2011_88_MOESM4_ESM.pdf (14 kb)
Fig. S1. All-species phylogenetic tree. Colours of species’ names represent their recognized families: Hesperiidae (green), Lycaenidae (red), Nymphalidae (blue), Pieridae (orange), Papilionidae (purple), and Riodinidae (aqua) with moth outgroup taxa at the top in pink (PDF 14 kb)
10531_2011_88_MOESM5_ESM.gif (532 kb)
Fig. S2. Decision tree used to construct the all-species phylogenetic tree. The only exception we made to this tree was ignoring the presence of Speyeria mormonia and proceeding as though S. idalia was the only species of its genus in the tree when adding congeneric species, because S. mormonia resolved a an improbable position in our tree. Figure created using Diagram Designer version 1.22 (GIF 533 kb)
10531_2011_88_MOESM6_ESM.ppt (140 kb)
Fig. S3. Number of species receiving various numbers of mobility estimates (PPT 140 kb)
10531_2011_88_MOESM7_ESM.ppt (144 kb)
Fig. S4. Relationship between the standard deviation and mean mobility estimates. Greater standard deviation values for species with intermediate mobility scores indicate greater variation among respondents’ estimates for those species. Fitted curve: standard deviation = 1.5 + (0.04 × mean) − [0.04 × (mean − 5.07)2]; adjusted R2 = 0.07, df = 2/273, P < 0.0001. (PPT 144 kb)
10531_2011_88_MOESM8_ESM.doc (42 kb)
Tables S1and S2 (DOC 41 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ryan J. Burke
    • 1
  • Jay M. Fitzsimmons
    • 1
  • Jeremy T. Kerr
    • 1
  1. 1.Biology DepartmentUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada

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