Monday, April 07, 2014

Butterfly Becomes Fastest Of Its Kind To Adapt To Climate Change

by Katie Valentine for Climate Progress

One butterfly species has come back from the brink of extinction and is beginning to quickly adapt to warmer weather, new research has found.
The research, outlined in the Guardian and presented at the Butterfly Conservation’s international symposium, found that the quino checkerspot butterfly has both shifted its range to higher, cooler altitudes and has chosen an entirely new plant on which to lay its eggs. The butterfly, which lives in Mexico and California, was once prevalent, but habitat loss did a number on some colonies and climate change reduced a staple plant of the caterpillars’ diet, leading to more dropoff in butterfly numbers. Six years ago, scientists wondered whether the butterfly should be moved by humans to cooler climates, but the quino ended up not needing human help to adapt to climate change.
“Every butterfly biologist who knew anything about the quino in the mid-1990s thought it would be extinct by now, including me,” Camille Parmesan, professor at the Marine Sciences Institute at Plymouth University, told the Guardian.
Parmesan said that while the butterfly’s movement is encouraging to scientists who are trying to figure out how to save species from a warming climate, it also points to the need for habitat protection. If the butterflies — and potentially other species — adapt quickly enough to move to higher altitudes, it’s essential that healthy environments exist in those altitudes in which the butterflies can settle. It’s also essential that these species have corridors by which to move to higher altitudes, so that they can avoid getting killed by roads or long stretches of developed land. Read More