Mountains and butterflies are conceptualized as the ultimate juxtaposition—enduring and resolute versus fleeting and delicate.
Mountains and butterflies are conceptualized as the ultimate juxtaposition—enduring and resolute versus fleeting and delicate—but the surprising robustness of alpine butterflies could help scientists better understand the impact climate change is having on mountains.
In an essay written for the third annual State of the Mountains report by the Alpine Club of Canada, University of Alberta renewable resources PhD student Zac MacDonald, along with U of A biological sciences professor Felix Sperling and registered professional forester William Sperling, outlined the need for more research into the adaptability and life cycle of these alpine creatures that have adapted to endure in particularly harsh environmental conditions.
The reason alpine butterflies are so interesting to climate change experts is that they have relatively rapid life cycles, most often completing one every year so their populations respond to changes quite rapidly.
For example, female Rocky Mountain apollo butterflies will lay eggs singly on the undersides of rocks or vegetation near the plant the caterpillar will feed on in the springtime. The overwintering eggs depend on a deep snowpack to insulate them from the cold alpine temperatures in the winter.
Continue reading at University of Alberta.
Image via Zac Robinson.