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Animal Migration

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Variation in Forewing Size Linked to Migratory Status in Monarch Butterflies

Yiwen Li / Amanda A Pierce
  • Corresponding author
  • Emory University, Department of Biology
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Department of Biology
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Jacobus C. de Roode
Published Online: 2016-06-23 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ami-2016-0003


Long-distance migration can be seen throughout the animal kingdom and can have large impacts on population dynamics and species distributions. The act of migration itself also affects the evolution of a species, as evolutionary forces select for certain characteristics in animals conducting long-distance migration. Monarch butterflies are best known for their annual migration from Canada and the northern United States to central Mexico, but some populations of monarchs have lost the ability to migrate. Previous research found that migratory monarchs had larger, more elongated wings than their non-migratory counterparts and it was hypothesized that these traits were beneficial for migration. However, Bergmann’s rule - which predicts larger body sizes with increasing latitude - could also explain this pattern as migratory populations are found at higher latitudes. To understand the role of wing dimensions in migration, we examined forewing size and shape of migratory and non-migratory monarchs from seven worldwide populations varying in latitude. Results showed that larger forewing size was indeed correlated with migratory status rather than latitude. However, migratory monarchs did not have more elongated forewing shape than non-migratory monarchs across the globe. Our study indicates that size may play a larger role than shape in long-distance migratory capability.

Keywords : long-distance migration; Danaus plexippus; wing morphology; Bergmann’s rule


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About the article

Received: 2016-04-12

Accepted: 2016-06-13

Published Online: 2016-06-23

Citation Information: Animal Migration, Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 27–34, ISSN (Online) 2084-8838, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ami-2016-0003.

Export Citation

© 2016 Yiwen Li, et al.. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. BY-NC-ND 3.0

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