Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the Czech Academy of Sciences have found that larger wingspans are able to help tropical butterflies cope efficiently and adapt to climate change. So, how exactly did they make this discovery?
For the study, both the researchers and the Czech Academy of Sciences collected data from a grand total of 54 butterfly species in the forests of Central Panama over the course of a 9-month period. Using nets to capture the butterflies, they measured the temperature of the butterflies before comparing it to the surrounding vegetation or air. Alongside this set of data, they also collected data from other regions of the world as a comparison point. The results were encouraging.
After careful analysis of the data from over 6,800 butterflies, the researchers found that the butterflies with bigger wings could keep cooler when temperatures were warmer. In particular, those with narrow and longer wings seemed to have an advantage. This is great news for butterflies with larger wings, as it suggests that they may be better able to cope with and withstand warmer temperatures. This means their chance of extinction will also decrease, which is a huge win!
Co-lead author Esme Ashe-Jepson from the University of Cambridge made the following statement: “Our results have highlighted how unique these species are – they’re using different strategies to cool down or warm up. What’s exciting is that these results suggest that physiological measures could be used to make predictions about how species might respond to climate change.”
However, this isn't the only win for butterflies. A WWF study from 2022 revealed that Monarch butterfly numbers increased by 35%, which is encouraging news for the once-in-decline species.