Plant quality and the presence of beneficiaries govern the larval distribution of the critically endangered Sinai Baton Blue butterfly (Pseudophilotes sinaicus)

Abstract

The larval distribution of herbivorous insects play an important role in their development and hence future fitness. Here we study larval distribution of the critically endangered Sinai Baton Blue butterfly, Pseudophilotes sinaicus, which feeds exclusively on the buds and flowers of a single host plant, also endangered, the near-endemic Sinai thyme, Thymus decussatus. We studied the larval distribution over 131 plants, recording the size, quality and phenological stage of the plants along with the presence of beneficiaries. Larvae were found on plants with a high number of flowers, a relatively advanced flowering phenology and tending ants. This highlights the importance of the vitality and quality of the host plant to the spatial distribution of the Sinai Baton Blue. Future conservation plans might concentrate on improving the quality and quantity of the host plant in order to increase resources for this narrowly endemic species.

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Correspondence to Katy Thompson.

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Thompson, K., Shepherd, A. & Gilbert, F. Plant quality and the presence of beneficiaries govern the larval distribution of the critically endangered Sinai Baton Blue butterfly (Pseudophilotes sinaicus). J Insect Conserv 18, 189–195 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10841-014-9628-6

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Keywords

  • Larval niche
  • Habitat quality
  • Arid environment
  • Resource level
  • Egypt
  • Thymus decussatus