MAY 15, 2019 5:52 PM PDT

Can Butterflies Regulate Body Temperature to Combat Climate Change?

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Butterflies are some of nature’s most distinguishable pollinators, but like most other insects in this classification, butterfly populations are thought to be threatened by a whole host of different factors, including climate change.

Image Credit: Pixabay

As the Earth’s climate continues to warm up, researchers become increasingly curious about the potential impact that this might have on butterfly populations. Sadly, there isn’t enough data to make accurate predictions, and that’s precisely why a team of researchers from the U.K. has taken matters into their own hands.

The researchers were particularly interested in finding out more about the mechanisms that butterflies use to regulate their body temperature in various environmental conditions. To do this, they recorded the temperatures of more than 2,000 butterflies residing at four separate wildlife reserves.

In an effort to gather significant quantities of data, the researchers were cautious to capture measurements in differing environments, and this included so-called ‘micro-climates’ that existed in the butterflies’ habitat(s).

Related: Migrating monarch butterflies are experiencing elevated parasitism risks

While it’s a well-known fact that some butterflies will spread their wings and sit entirely still when they’re cold to absorb the Sun’s warmth, it remains a mystery how the insects might cool themselves down when they’re too hot due to an excessively-warm ambient temperature. Moreover, the warming process isn’t as effective in some butterfly species as it is in others.

"That will have consequences in how active they are able to be. On a cold day, species good at heating themselves will be active earlier - feeding, mating and defending their territory," elucidated Dr. Andrew Bladon from the University of Cambridge, a researcher who partook in the data collection. 

Related: Monarch butterflies’ favorite food turns poisonous amid rising temperatures

Perhaps unsurprisingly, butterflies with a natural aptitude for body temperature regulation will have an advantage over those that aren’t so talented in this department – especially in the face of climate change. That said, while the research is very much in its early stages as of now, the data and subsequent findings may one day help conservationists in their ongoing efforts to sustain populations.

The results of the research aren’t expected to hit the scientific journals until later this Summer, but it’s still rather interesting to see what researchers are doing to further humankind’s knowledge about Mother Nature. After all, many questions remain about the world’s future at this rate.

Source: BBC

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
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