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High-arctic butterflies become smaller with rising temperatures

  • Author(s): Bowden, JJ
  • Eskildsen, A
  • Hansen, RR
  • Olsen, K
  • Kurle, CM
  • Høye, TT
  • et al.
Abstract

© 2015 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved. The response of body size to increasing temperature constitutes a universal response to climate change that could strongly affect terrestrial ectotherms, but the magnitude and direction of such responses remain unknown in most species. The metabolic cost of increased temperature could reduce body size but long growing seasons could also increase body size as was recently shown in an Arctic spider species. Here, we present the longest known time series on body size variation in two High-Arctic butterfly species: Boloria chariclea and Colias hecla. We measured wing length of nearly 4500 individuals collected annually between 1996 and 2013 from Zackenberg, Greenland and found that wing length significantly decreased at a similar rate in both species in response to warmer summers. Body size is strongly related to dispersal capacity and fecundity and our results suggest that these Arctic species could face severe challenges in response to ongoing rapid climate change.

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