Main content area

Strategies for size and growth in butterflies (Insecta: Lepidoptera): counterintuitive trends and unique solutions to achieving maturity

Dennis, Roger L.H., Hodgson, John G., Hardy, Peter B., Dapporto, Leonardo
Journal of natural history 2012 v.46 no.39-40 pp. 2415-2437
Nymphalidae, Pieridae, butterflies, host plants, larvae, life history, overwintering
Larger organisms are expected to take longer to develop, depressing overall growth rates. An examination of relationships between size, development times and growth rates in British and northwest European butterflies has revealed a reversal of this relationship with large species developing rapidly and small species developing slowly, especially in subsets of species that complete their development in a single season and have multiple broods. Distinctive life history associations are found to be linked to rapid development (daytime and gregarious feeding) and enhanced defence (larval spines, aposematism) from the resulting increased exposure to enemies. Taxonomic bias is evident in development-size patterns linked to overwintering strategy and voltinism. Different strategies exist for faster growth in the larger Pieridae and non-satyrine Nymphalidae. Larval host plant contrasts for food quantity and quality underlie distinctions for size and development times.