Vol. 38 (2015)
Research Project Ecology

Summary of an Ongoing Population Study of Parnassius Clodius Butterflies

Audrey L. McCombs
Iowa State University
Diane M. Debinski
Iowa State University

Published 2015-01-01


Climate change presents unique challenges to high-altitude, high-latitude flying insects such as butterflies, bees, and flies. Models predict that climate change will cause general range shifts toward the poles and high elevations (Parmesan and Yohe 2003, Root et al. 2003) and empirical studies confirm that these range shifts are occurring (Parmesan et al. 1999, Kerr et al. 2015). As the earth warms, animals already living at high elevations and/or high latitudes may have nowhere to go. Furthermore, the body temperature of insects is dependent on ambient temperatures, and therefore many aspects of their ecology and general biology (development, growth, survival, dispersal, mating) may be stressed by or incompatible with a changing climate. Finally, animal flight at altitude involves substantial aerodynamic and physiological challenges, and significant reductions in air density and oxygen constrain flight at higher elevations (Dillon and Dudley 2015). Moving up in elevation therefore may not be an option for some high-altitude fliers.