Biological Invasions

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 123–127 | Cite as

Monarchs in Australia: On the Winds of a Storm?

  • Anthony R. Clarke
  • Myron P. Zalucki


The monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, is one of Australia's best-known exotic butterflies, being first recorded here in the spring/summer of 1870/1871. However, the source of the original population is unknown. Using historical records we suggest that the most likely source of the founder population was from Vanuatu and/or New Caledonia. Many almost simultaneous 'first records' for the butterfly in Australia suggest that a large, well-distributed population was present when first noticed. While such a population may have developed from a limited number of individuals flying across the Coral Sea, the well documented, very dramatic appearance of large monarch populations in Australia does not appear to fit this model. Rather, we hypothesise that large numbers of monarchs were carried to Australia on cyclonic winds: no fewer that 3 cyclones hit the Queensland coast in early 1870. If one or more of these cyclones tracked from the Vanuatu/New Caledonia chain, then they may have transported monarchs. Once established on the central/northern Queensland coast, natural migration would account for the appearance of butterflies further south.

cyclones Danaus plexippus historic records hurricanes invasions 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Natural Resource SciencesQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Zoology and EntomologyThe University of QueenslandBrisbane 4072Australia

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