Acta Biotheoretica

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 219–237 | Cite as

An evolutionary-ecological model of the evolution of migratory behavior in the Monarch Butterfly, and its absence in the Queen Butterfly

  • Allen M. Young


This paper presents a model that generates testable hypotheses concerning the evolution of long-range migratory behavior in the Monarch Butterfly,Danaus plexippus and the general absence of such behavior in a related form, the Queen,D. gilippus (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Danainae). An attempt is made to reconstruct a probable transition within the Neotropical forest-dwelling danaines associated with woody Asclepiadaceae (and to a lesser extent, perhaps some Apocyanaceae) as larval food plants to a progenitor stock of the Monarch and Queen in more seasonal tropical regions, and eventually temperate regions, and associated with herbaceous asclepiads such asAsclepias. A basic premise of the proposed hypothetical model is that the colonization of secondary habitats in seasonal tropical regions of Central America preadapted both forms to an eventual colonization of the sub-temperate and temperate zone of North America. The assumed evolutionary diversification of the herbaceousAsclepias species in North America provided an evolutionary stepping stone for the expansion of these danaines into this region. Owing to strong selection arising from the co-association of the Monarch and Queen with the same species ofAsclepias in the subtropical region of North America, eventually there was selection for the colonization of the higher latitudes by the Monarch, whereAsclepias thrived. Being essentially a tropical insect, the Monarch evolved an obligatory long-range migratory behavior to allow colonization of the temperate zone annually, and necessitating the use of overwintering sites in Mexico and other places.


Tropical Rain Forest Extrafloral Nectary Extant Population Monarch Butterfly Reproductive Diapause 
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. Alerstam, T. and P.H. Enckell (1979). Unpredictable habitats and evolution of bird migration. - Oikos33, p. 228–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beebe, W. (1950). Migration of Danaidae, Ithomiidae, Acraeidae, and Heliconidae (butterflies) at Rancho Grande, North-Central Venezuela. - Zoologica35, p. 57–68.Google Scholar
  3. Bentley, B. L. (1977). The protective function of ants visiting the extra-floral nectaries ofBixa orellana L. (Bixaceae).- J. Ecol.65, p. 27–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brower, L.P. (1962). Evidence for interspecific competition in natural populations of the Monarch and Queen butterflies,Danaus plexippus andD. gilippus berenice in south central Florida. - Ecology43, p. 549–552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brower, L. P., W. H. Calvert, L. E. Hedrick and J. Christian (1977). Biological observations on an overwintering colony of Monarch butterfies (Danaus plexippus, Danaidae) in Mexico. - J. Lepid. Soc.31, p. 232–242.Google Scholar
  6. Calvert, W.H., L.E. Hedrick and L.P. Brower (1979). Mortality of the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus L.): avian predation at five overwintering sites in Mexico. - Science 204, p. 847–851.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dethier, V.G. and R.H. MacArthur (1964). A field's capacity to support a butterfly population. - Nature201, p. 728–729.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dingle, H. (1978). Migration and diapause in tropical, temperate, and island milkweed bugs. In: H. Dingle (ed.), Evolution of insect migration and diapause. - New York, Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  9. Eanes, W.F. and R.K. Koehn (1978). An analysis of genetic structure in the Monarch Butterfly,Danaus plexippus L. - Evolution32, p. 784–797.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ehrlich, P.R. and P.H. Raven (1965). Butterflies and plants: a study in coevolution. - Evolution18, p. 586–608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gilbert, L.E. (1975). Ecological consequences of a coevolved mutualism between butterflies and plants, p. 210–239. In: L.E. Gilbert and P.H. Raven (eds.), Coevolution of animals and plants. - Austin, Univ. of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  12. Gilbert, L.E. and M.C. Singer (1973). Dispersal and gene flow in a butterfly species. - Amer. Nat.107, p. 58–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Herman, W.S. (1981). Studies on the adult reproductive diapause of the Monarch Butterfly,Danaus plexippus. - Biol. Bull.160, p. 89–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Janzen, D.H. (1967a). Synchronization of sexual reproduction of trees within the dry season in Central America. - Evolution21, p. 620–637.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Janzen, D.H. (1967b). Why mountain passes are higher in the tropics. - Amer. Nat.101, p. 233–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Janzen, D.H. (1968). Host plants as islands in evolutionary and contemporary time. - Amer. Nat.102, p. 592–595.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Janzen, D.H. and T.W. Schoener (1968). Differences in insect abundance and diversity between wetter and drier sites during a tropical dry season. - Ecology40, p. 96–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Johnson, C.G. (1969). Migration and dispersal of insects by flight. - London, Methuen, 763 PP.Google Scholar
  19. Jones, R.E., N. Gilbert, M. Guppy and V. Nealis (1980). Long-distance movement of Pieris rapae. - J. Anim. Ecol.49, p. 629–642.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lawrence, G.H.M. (1951). Taxonomy of vascular plants. - New York, MacMillan Press, 823 pp.Google Scholar
  21. Lewontin, R.C. (1965). Selection for colonizing ability, p. 71–91. In: H.G. Baker and G.L. Stebbins (eds.), The genetics of colonizing species. - New York, Academic Press.Google Scholar
  22. Mertz, D.B. (1970). Notes on methods used in life-history studies, p. 4–17. In: J.H. Connell, D.B. Mertz and W.W. Murdoch (eds.), Readings on ecology and ecological genetics. - New York, Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  23. Owen, D.F. and D.O. Chanter (1968). Population biology of tropical African butterflies. 2. Sex ratio and polymorphism inDanaus chrysippus L. - Rev. Zool. Bot. Aft.83, p. 81–97.Google Scholar
  24. Owen, D.F. and J. Owen (1972). Systematics and bionomics of butterflies seen and collected in the forest region of Sierra Leone. Part 1. Introduction Papilionidae, Danaidae, and Acraeidae. - Rev. Zool. Bot. Aft.85, p. 287–308.Google Scholar
  25. Rawlins, J.E. and R.C. Lederhouse (1981). Developmental influences of thermal behavior on Monarch caterpillars (Danaus plexippus): an adaptation for migration (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Danainae). - J. Kansas Ent. Soc.54, p. 387–408.Google Scholar
  26. Richards, P.W. (1966). The tropical rain forest. - Cambridge, Cambridge Univ. Press, 450 pp.Google Scholar
  27. Shapiro, A.M. (1970). The role of sexual behavior in density-related dispersal of pierid butterflies. - Amer. Nat.104, p. 367–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Shapiro, A.M. (1981). The pierid red-egg syndrome. - Amer. Nat.117, p. 276–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Southwood, T.R.E. (1962). Migration of terrestrial arthropods in relation to habitat. - Biol. Rev.37, p. 171–214.Google Scholar
  30. Sullivan-Borkin, S. (1980). Shifting distribution patterns of immature stages of the Monarch Butterfly,Danaus plexippus L. on the food plantAsclepias syriaca L. - Master's thesis, Univ. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 35 pp.Google Scholar
  31. Tuskes, P.M. and L.P. Brower (1978). Overwintering ecology of the Monarch Butterfly,Danaus plexippus L., in California. - Ecol. Entomol.3, p. 141–153.Google Scholar
  32. Urquhart, F. A. (1960). The Monarch Butterfly. - Toronto, Univ. of Toronto Press, 361 pp.Google Scholar
  33. Urquhart, F.A. (1976). The overwintering site of the eastern population of the monarch butterfly (Danaus p. plexippus; Danaidae) in southern Mexico. - J. Lepid. Soc.30, p. 153–158.Google Scholar
  34. Wiklund, C. (1975). The evolutionary relationship between adult oviposition preferences and larval host plant range inPapilipo machaon L. - Oecologia18, p. 185–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Williams, K.S. and L.E. Gilbert (1981). Insects as selective agents on plant vegetative morphology: egg mimicry reduces egg laying by butterflies. - Science212, p. 467–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Wise, K.A.J. (1980). Monarch butterfly dispersal in New Zealand. - Rec. Auckland Inst. Muse.17, p. 157–173.Google Scholar
  37. Woodson, R.E., Jr. (1954). The North American species ofAsclepias L. - Ann. Mo. Bot. Gdn.41, p. 1–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Young, A.M. (1980). Evolutionary responses by butterflies to patchy spatial distributions of resources in tropical environments. - Acta Biotheoretica29, p. 37–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Young, A.M. (1981 a). On the evolutionary distance between asclepiadaceous- and apocyanaceous-feeding danaids and ithomiids. -J. Res. Lepid.18, p. 251–254.Google Scholar
  40. Young, A.M. (1981 b). Responses by butterflies to seasonal conditions in lowland Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica. - J. Lepid. Soc.35, in press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff/Dr W. Junk Publishers 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allen M. Young
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Invertebrate ZoologyMilwaukee Public MuseumMilwaukeeU.S.A.

Personalised recommendations