Implications of a temperature increase for host plant range: predictions for a butterfly


  • We thank the Strategic Research Program Ekoklim at Stockholm University that participates in the funding of this study.


Although changes in phenology and species associations are relatively well-documented responses to global warming, the potential interactions between these phenomena are less well understood. In this study, we investigate the interactions between temperature, phenology (in terms of seasonal timing of larval growth) and host plant use in the polyphagous butterfly Polygonia c-album. We found that the hierarchy of larval performance on three natural host plants was not modified by a temperature increase as such. However, larval performance on each host plant and temperature treatment was affected by rearing season. Even though larvae performed better at the higher temperature regardless of the time of the rearing, relative differences between host plants changed with the season. For larvae reared late in the season, performance was always better on the herbaceous plant than on the woody plants. In this species, it is likely that a prolonged warming will lead to a shift from univoltinism to bivoltinism. The demonstrated interaction between host plant suitability and season means that such a shift is likely to lead to a shift in selective regime, favoring specialization on the herbaceous host. Based on our result, we suggest that host range evolution in response to temperature increase would in this species be highly contingent on whether the population undergoes a predicted shift from one to two generations. We discuss the effect of global warming on species associations and the outcome of asynchrony in rates of phenological change.