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Documenting successful recruitment of monarch butterflies (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) at the extreme northern edge of their range

  • D.T. Tyler Flockhart (a1) (a2), John H. Acorn (a3), Keith A. Hobson (a4) (a5) and D. Ryan Norris (a1)


Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus (Linnaeus) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae)) in eastern North America migrate each year from overwintering areas in Mexico to cover a large breeding distribution across the United States of America and southern Canada. In 2012, monarch butterflies migrated well beyond their usual range, resulting in an extended breeding distribution compared to typical years. We used stable isotope (δ2H, δ13C) measurements in wing chitin to determine the area of natal origin of these butterflies. Most monarch butterflies collected in May, June, and July from Manitoba and Alberta, Canada had natal origins in the North American Midwest. Monarch butterflies collected in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada in August and September had local natal origins indicating successful recruitment of offspring from colonising individuals. However, it is unknown whether these offspring migrated successfully to overwintering areas. Our work highlights the ability of monarch butterflies to colonise distant breeding areas and demonstrates how stable isotopes can be used to understand the dynamics of range-edge populations.


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Subject editor: Cory Sheffield



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