Butterfly flight activity affects reproductive performance and longevity relative to landscape structure

Oecologia. 2010 Jun;163(2):341-50. doi: 10.1007/s00442-010-1613-5. Epub 2010 Apr 6.


Due to an overlap in the resources used by the flight muscles with the resources used during egg production, it has been hypothesised that an increased dispersal in fragmented landscapes may result in a physiological trade-off between flight and reproduction. In a common garden experiment, we investigated the effects of increased flight on the reproductive output of female speckled wood butterflies (Pararge aegeria, L.) from closed continuous woodland populations versus open highly fragmented agricultural landscapes in central France. Our flight treatment significantly affected resource allocation to egg size, but had no effect on mean daily fecundity. This treatment effect was similar for females from the two landscapes of origin, and suggests that energetic costs associated with increased flight result in a decrease in resource allocation to egg provisioning. There was a landscape-specific effect of flight on longevity: flight reduced longevity by 21% in woodland females, but had no affect on agricultural females. This result suggests that woodland landscape females further compensate for excessive flight by redirecting resources away from somatic maintenance, resulting in reduced life spans. Our results strongly indicate that increased flight caused by changes in landscape structure may impact on key life history traits such as reproductive success and longevity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Butterflies / anatomy & histology
  • Butterflies / growth & development
  • Butterflies / physiology*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Female
  • Fertility / physiology
  • Flight, Animal / physiology*
  • Geography
  • Locomotion / physiology
  • Longevity / physiology*
  • Oviposition / physiology
  • Ovum / cytology
  • Ovum / growth & development
  • Ovum / physiology*
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Trees / physiology*