We conducted an experiment to test the effects of food deprivation in the larval stage on multiple measures of adult wing morphology and coloration of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus), a species in which long-distance migration makes flight efficiency critical. In a captive setting, we restricted food (milkweed) from late-stage larvae for either 24 hrs or 48 hrs, then after metamorphosis we used image analysis methods to measure forewing surface area and elongation (length/width), which are both important for migration... The clearest effect of food restriction was a reduction in adult wing size in the high stress group (by approximately 2%)... Although some patterns obtained in this study were unclear, our results concerning wing size have direct bearing on the monarch migration. We show that if milkweed is limited for monarch larvae, their wings become stunted, which could ultimately result in lower migration success.The data and an extended discussion are at PLOS One.
14 May 2015
Larval food stress affects butterflies