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Keywords:

  • Biotope;
  • conservation;
  • C-S-R;
  • habitat;
  • life history;
  • plant strategies;
  • population structure;
  • ranges;
  • rarity;
  • resource use

Abstract.  1. To determine whether rarity and decline is linked to organism ecology, associations have been examined between butterfly larval host-plant competitive, stress-tolerant, ruderal (C-S-R) strategies and butterfly biology.

2. Associations have been sought between mean C-S-R scores for larval host plants with butterfly life history, morphology and physiology variables, resource use, population attributes, geography, and conservation status. Comparisons are carried out across species and controlled for phylogenetic patterning.

3. Butterfly biology is linked to host-plant strategies. An increasing tendency of a butterfly's host plants to a particular strategy biases that butterfly species to functionally linked life-history attributes and resource breadth and type. In turn, population attributes and geography are significantly and substantially affected by host choice and the strategies of these host plants.

4. The greatest contrast is between butterfly species whose host plants are labelled C and R strategists and those whose host plants are labelled S strategists. Increasingly high host-plant C and R strategy scores bias butterflies to rapid development, short early stages, multivoltinism, long flight periods, early seasonal emergence, higher mobility, polyphagy, wide resource availability and biotope occupancy, open, areally expansive, patchy population structures, denser distributions, wider geographical ranges, resistance to range retractions as well as to increasing rarity in the face of environmental changes. Increasing host-plant S strategy scores have reversed tendencies, biasing those butterfly species to extended development times, fewer broods, short flight periods, smaller wing expanse and lower mobility, monophagy, restricted resource exploitation and biotope occupancy, closed, areally limited populations with typical metapopulation structures, sparse distributions, and limited geographical ranges, range retractions, and increased rarity.

5. Species with S strategy host plants are species vulnerable to current environmental changes and species of conservation concern.