Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 477–483 | Cite as

Inbreeding depression in monarch butterflies

  • Andrew J. MongueEmail author
  • Michelle V. Tsai
  • Marta L. Wayne
  • Jacobus C. de Roode


Monarch butterflies and their unique system of multigenerational migration have long fascinated the public, and concerns for the fate of this charismatic insect have grown due to the consistent declines in overwintering colony size over the last 20 years. Risks to this migratory insect have been considered in terms of climate change, habitat and thus population fragmentation, and decreased host plant availability. However, another obvious danger, that of decreased heterozygosity resulting from decreasing population size, has yet to be explored. Here we report experimental evidence for immediate inbreeding depression in individuals from the migratory population. Inbred matings produced less viable eggs and inbred offspring had higher developmental mortality and shorter lifespans. We discuss these results in the context of monarch migration extinction risk and suggest that additional genetic monitoring should be undertaken to protect this iconic animal.


Population dynamics Migration Conservation planning Genetics 



We thank the de Roode lab for logistical and theoretical help with this project; R.D. Holt and M. Barfield for comments on the manuscript; and C. Chaffee and A. Gonzalez Rodriguez for discussion. This work was supported by National Science Foundation grant DEB-1257160 to J.C.D.R.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew J. Mongue
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Michelle V. Tsai
    • 1
  • Marta L. Wayne
    • 3
  • Jacobus C. de Roode
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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