Phenotypic plasticity in butterfly morphology in response to weather conditions during development

Authors

  • M. Gibbs,

    1. Behavioural Ecology and Conservation Group, Biodiversity Research Centre, Earth and Life Institute, Université catholique de Louvain (UCL), Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
    2. NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Crowmarsh Gifford, Wallingford, UK
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  • C. Wiklund,

    1. Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
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  • H. Van Dyck

    1. Behavioural Ecology and Conservation Group, Biodiversity Research Centre, Earth and Life Institute, Université catholique de Louvain (UCL), Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
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  • Editor: Nigel Bennett

Correspondence
Hans Van Dyck, Behavioural Ecology and Conservation Group, Biodiversity Research Centre, Earth and Life Institute, Université catholique de Louvain (UCL), Croix du Sud 4-5, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. Tel:+32 010 47 90 39; Fax:+32 010 47 34 90
Email: hans.vandyck@uclouvain.be

Abstract

In seasonal environments, phenotypic plasticity in response to gradual changes in environmental variables may result in the production of discrete seasonal morphs. Production of the appropriate seasonal morph at the correct time relies on individuals interpreting environmental cues during their development. The speckled wood butterfly Pararge aegeria (L.) has previously been shown to have developmental and phenotypic plasticity across seasons and space (habitats). Here, we examine the developmental sensitivity of different seasonal cohorts of female P. aegeria to changes in local weather conditions over time (1989–1999) and determine how such temporal climatic variation affects adult phenotype development. We observed trait- and cohort-specific changes of adult phenotype development in response to local temporal changes in temperature and rainfall levels. We discuss our findings using current life-history theory and consider the potential for changes in local weather conditions to influence population variability in butterfly morphology and performance.

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