Science

Spotlight

Dasgupta Report ' The Economics of Biodiversity' Full report HERE

This seminal global report tackles the fundamentals of our realtionship with Nature . He outlines the drastic changes required for our survival and avoid another COVID 19

Our economies, livelihoods and well-being all depend on our most precious asset: Nature. We have collectively failed to engage with Nature sustainably, to the extent that our demands far exceed its capacity to supply us with the goods and services we all rely on. We require 1.6 Earths to maintain the world’s current living standards. Our unsustainable engagement with Nature is endangering the prosperity of current and future generations. At the heart of the problem lies deep-rooted, widespread institutional failure. The solution starts with understanding and accepting a simple truth: our economies are embedded within Nature, not external to it. We need to change how we think, act and measure success. We need to ensure that our demands on Nature do not exceed its supply, and that we increase Nature’s supply relative to its current level. To change our measures of economic success to guide us on a more sustainable path.

He concludes "Transformative change is possible – we and our descendants deserve nothing less!" It needs a plan in excess of the Marshall plan that rebuilt shattered Europe after WW2 as well as instilling an appreciation of nature through education is vital.

The papers say: "Landmark report says GDP should be ditched as measure of wealth and nature valued to protect wildlife and humans" . The review’s focus on completely rewiring mainstream economic and financial models is key to moving the nature debate on to the agenda of governments, financial regulators and individual financial firms

Produced capital has doubled since 1990 while natural capital has nearly halved .

Butterflies fly using efficient propulsive clap mechanism owing to flexible wings L. C. Johansson and P. Henningsson

Butterflies look like no other flying animal, with unusually short, broad and large wings relative to their body size. Previous studies have suggested butterflies use several unsteady aerodynamic mechanisms to boost force production with upstroke wing clap being a prominent feature. When the wings clap together at the end of upstroke the air between the wings is pressed out, creating a jet, pushing the animal in the opposite direction. Although viewed, for the last 50 years, as a crucial mechanism in insect flight, quantitative aerodynamic measurements of the clap in freely flying animals are lacking. Using quantitative flow measurements behind freely flying butterflies during take-off and a mechanical clapper, we provide aerodynamic performance estimates for the wing clap. We show that flexible butterfly wings, forming a cupped shape during the upstroke and clap, thrust the butterfly forwards, while the downstroke is used for weight support. We further show that flexible wings dramatically increase the useful impulse (+22%) and efficiency (+28%) of the clap compared to rigid wings. Combined, our results suggest butterflies evolved a highly effective clap, which provides a mechanistic hypothesis for their unique wing morphology. Furthermore, our findings could aid the design of man-made flapping drones, boosting propulsive performance. Full Article here

What have moths ever done for us??

Well...how about rescue us from Covid 19? Yes!

The second wave of Covid Vaccines are expected to be approved after phase 3 trials in 1st quarter 2021. They include one manufacturered using a moth, the Noctuid Spodoptera frugiperda or 'Fall Army Worm'. Cells extracted from the formimg ovaries of a caterpillar (backin the 70's) can be cultured with the advantage they never change and are immortal. In an extremely safe process moth cells are brewed in 2000 ltr. bioreactors at Fujifilm's bio-pharmaceutical site at Billingham. The cells are then infected with a moth Baculovirus that has been modified to carry the DNA code to make the moth produce the antigen protein. The Baculovirus inserts this DNA into the moth cell's DNA who start to make spike proteins. After a few days the protein can be harvested form the cells onto a synthetic particles that closely resembles the Covid virus and mixed with a saponin, a natural adjuvant from Horse chesnuts, to make the final vaccine. This vaccine then causes our bodies to make antispike antibodies that that bind to the Covid virus spikes deactivating it. Proven now to be 1st in its class it produces a response in humans significantly greater than catching the Covid itself see below: Thank you Moths!

The First known Riodinid 'Cuckoo' Butterfly : Lucas Kaminski

Mutualistic interactions between butterflies and ants can evolve into complex social parasitism. 'Cuckoo' caterpillars, known only in the Lycaenidae, use multimodal mimetic traits to achieve social integration into ant societies. Here, we present the first known 'cuckoo' butterfly in the family Riodinidae. Aricoris arenarum remained in taxonomic limbo for > 80 years, relegated to nomen dubium and misidentified as Aricoris gauchoana. We located lost type material, designated lectotypes and documented the morphology and natural history of the immature stages. The multifaceted life cycle of A. arenarum can be summarized in three phases: (1) females lay eggs close to honeydew-producing hemipterans tended by specific Camponotus ants; (2) free-living caterpillars feed on liquids (honeydew and ant regurgitations); and (3) from the third instar onward, the caterpillars are fed and tended by ants as 'cuckoos' inside the ant nest. This life cycle is remarkably similar to that of the Asian lycaenid Niphanda fusca, despite divergence 90 Mya. Comparable eco-evolutionary pathways resulted in a suite of ecomorphological homoplasies through the ontogeny. This study shows that convergent interactions can be more important than phylogenetic proximity in shaping functional traits of social parasites.

Enhancing road verges to aid pollinator conservation: A review

Benjamin B. Phillipsa,⁎ , Claire Wallaceb , Bethany R. Robertsa , Andrew T. Whitehousec , Kevin J. Gastona , James M. Bullockd , Lynn V. Dicksb,e , Juliet L. Osbornea

Road verges provide habitats that have considerable potential as a tool for pollinator conservation, especially given the significant area of land that they collectively cover. Growing societal interest in managing road verges for pollinators suggests an immediate need for evidence-based management guidance. We used a formal, global literature review to assess evidence for the benefits of road verges for pollinators (as habitats and corridors), the potential negative impacts of roads on pollinators (vehicle-pollinator collisions, pollution, barriers to movement) and how to enhance road verges for pollinators through management. We identified, reviewed and synthesised 140 relevant studies. Overall, the literature review demonstrated that: (i) road verges are often hotspots of flowers and pollinators (well established), (ii) traffic and road pollution can cause mortality and other negative impacts on pollinators (well established), but available evidence suggests that the benefits of road verges to pollinators far outweigh the costs (established but incomplete), and (iii) road verges can be enhanced for pollinators through strategic management (well established). Future research should address the lack of holistic and large-scale understanding of the net effects of road verges on pollinators. We provide management recommendations for enhancing both individual road verges for pollinators (e.g. optimised mowing regimes) and entire road networks (e.g. prioritising enhancement of verges with the greatest capacity to benefit pollinators), and highlight three of the most strongly supported recommendations: (i) creating high quality habitats on new and existing road verges, (ii) reducing mowing frequency to 0–2 cuts/year

Speckled Wood: Wing morphological responses to latitude and colonisation in a range expanding butterfly

Evelyn D. Taylor-Cox1, Callum J. Macgregor2,3, Amy Corthine1, Jane K. Hill2, Jenny A. Hodgson1, Ilik J. Saccheri1

A study of how the Speckled Wood butterfly has been able to achieve such a rapid expansion and what we can learn from this as climate change bites . Are northerners bigger and darker? Anecdotal evidence from our recorders suggests they are and has been assisted in its invasion even into our gardens by the trend towards wet warm summers and lush grass growth. This species swept through Yorkshire in the 1980's to become one of our most familiar butterflies not only common anywhere shady but by being on the wing almost continuously from April till October.

The map shows the distribution of P. aegeria and the pattern of range expansion from 1965–2017. Colours show years when P. aegeria was first recorded at a 10 km grid resolution. Crosses indicate site locations sampled for the study

This study documents detailed wing morphological variation (size, shape and colour) in the Speckled Wood butterfly, P. aegeria, across two recently expanded populations in mainland Britain, suggesting differing responses to environmental and demographic factors. The size of P. aegeria increases with latitude, consistent with Bergmann’s rule, and during the range expansion process, with more recently colonised populations being larger than core populations. Shape changes, independent of size, are most strongly associated with colonisation history. Forewing shape becomes more rounded, whereas hindwing shape becomes longer, in more recently colonised populations and with latitude. The distribution of average lightness (opposite of melanism) is more strongly associated with temperature during development than it is to latitude, and runs contrary to the traditional thermal melanism hypothesis. Furthermore, the area of brown relative to cream increases with latitude, but not enough to overcome the general lightening in both areas. Finally, the contrast between brown and cream areas increases with latitude, accounting for the human perception that individuals become darker further north. Overall, this study sheds light on the interaction of temperature-sensitive plastic traits and selection during a mainly climate-driven range expansion.

" Populations undergoing rapid climate-driven range expansion experience distinct selection regimes dominated both by increased dispersal at the leading edges and steep environmental gradients. Characterisation of traits associated with such expansions provides insight into the selection pressures and evolutionary constraints that shape demographic and evolutionary responses. Here we investigate patterns in three components of wing morphology (size, shape, colour) often linked to dispersal ability and thermoregulation, along latitudinal gradients of range expansion in the Speckled Wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria) in Britain "

Resolving a 150 year old argument: Why do male and female butterflies differ in colour?

Males and females of many species are dimorphic; there are differences in the way the sexes look and function. One of the most studied types of dimorphism is dichromatism, where males and females have different colors.

It is often assumed that sexual selection is important to dichromatism, as choosy females often mate with colorful males. At the same time, natural selection by predators against elaborated colors can especially be strong for females, as they may need to carry eggs or provide maternal care making them more vulnerable.

For as long as we have known about natural and sexual selection, however, it has been debated which of these two forces initially creates dichromatism.

Charles Darwin argued that sexual selection drives male color away from female color, whereas contemporary Alfred Russel Wallace instead thought that natural selection pulled female color away from the male's.

Here, we revisit this debate using butterflies, one of the taxa Darwin and Wallace argued over, to determine whether Darwin's or Wallace's model is more important in the evolution of dichromatism.

We used drawings from a field guide to quantify the color difference between males and females of all European non‐hesperiid butterfly species, and modeled how their colors have evolved over time.

We show that the color of males generally evolves faster than that of females.

By using the direction of male and female color evolution along the phylogeny, we also determined that changes in male color are around twice as important to dichromatism evolution than changes in female color.

These results show that directional selection on males, likely due to sexual selection, is the main driver of dichromatism in butterflies.

This supports Darwin's, but not Wallace's, model of dichromatism evolution, resolving a 150‐year‐old argument.

more here

(Summary Extract )

Opposite: Colour profiles of Male and Females

Bucking the trend - Why are some British moths on the rise?


Online talk with Douglas Boyes, Newcastle University ; one of our young scientists


Recently, there has been a surge of interest in insect declines, with several high-profile studies generating extensive media coverage (‘insectageddon’). However, not all insects are declining. Conservation scientists have understandably focused on decreasing species, though these only provide half the story of biodiversity change. Appreciating how some species are thriving despite unprecedented anthropogenic pressures could provide insights for mitigating wider declines. The talk is based on Douglas Boyes’s MSc project which examined changes in the prevalence of 51 moth species, using two national datasets. The ‘winners’ are diverse, including long-term residents, habitat specialists, and recent colonists. The causes of these trends are poorly understood. Whilst climate change is considered an important driver, the success of many ‘winners’ likely arises from numerous, intertwining factors.

Douglas has been recording moths since aged 12, finding over 800 species in his garden. He further developed his passion for moths at the University of Oxford, through undergraduate and postgraduate research. Douglas is currently undertaking a PhD at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. This investigates the impacts of light pollution on moths.

Watch here.

Provide shady spots to protect butterflies from climate change, say scientists at Cambridge + Lancaster

Researchers have discovered significant variations in the ability of different UK butterfly species to maintain a suitable body temperature. Species that rely most on finding a suitably shady location to keep cool are at the greatest risk of population decline. The results predict how climate change might impact butterfly communities, and will inform conservation strategies to protect them.

The results, published today in the Journal of Animal Ecology, show that larger and paler butterflies including the Large White (Pieris brassicae) and Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) are best able to buffer themselves against environmental temperature swings. They angle their large, reflective wings in relation to the sun, and use them to direct the sun's heat either away from, or onto their bodies. These species have either stable or growing populations.

More colourful larger species such as the Peacock (Aglais io) and Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) have greater difficulty controlling their body temperature, but even they are better than their smaller relatives like the Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus).

The study found that some butterfly species rely on finding a spot at a specific temperature within a landscape -- termed a 'microclimate' -- to control their body temperature. Air temperatures vary on a fine scale: a shaded patch of ground is cooler than one in full sun, for example. These 'thermal specialists', including Brown Argus (Aricia agestis) and Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas), have suffered larger population declines over the last 40 years.

All butterflies are ectotherms: they can't generate their own body heat. "Butterfly species that aren't very good at controlling their temperature with small behavioural changes, but rely on choosing a micro-habitat at the right temperature, are likely to suffer the most from climate change and habitat loss," said Dr Andrew Bladon, a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the University of Cambridge's Department of Zoology, and first author of the report.

He added: "We need to make landscapes more diverse to help conserve many of our butterfly species. Even within a garden lawn, patches of grass can be left to grow longer -- these areas will provide cooler, shady places for many species of butterfly. In nature reserves, some areas could be grazed or cut and others left standing. We also need to protect features that break up the monotony of farm landscapes, like hedgerows, ditches, and patches of woodland."

Landscapes with a diversity of heights and features have a greater range of temperatures than flat, monotonous ones. This applies on scales from kilometres to centimetres: from hillsides to flower patches. Such structural diversity creates different microclimates that many butterflies use to regulate their temperature.

The research involved catching nearly 4,000 wild butterflies in hand-held nets, and taking the temperature of each using a fine probe. The surrounding air temperature was measured, and for butterflies found perching on a plant, the air temperature at the perch was also taken. This indicated the degree to which butterflies were seeking out specific locations to control their body temperature. In total, 29 different butterfly species were recorded.

The study reveals that butterflies are either thermal generalists or thermal specialists, and this does not always correspond with their current categorisations as either habitat generalists or specialists.

"As we plan conservation measures to address the effects of climate change, it will be important to understand not only the habitat requirements of different butterfly species, but also their temperature requirements," said Dr Ed Turner in the University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge, who led the work.

He added: "With this new understanding of butterflies, we should be able to better manage habitats and landscapes to protect them, and in doing so we're probably also protecting other insects too."

Over the past thirty years, many species of butterfly have expanded their range northwards, as more northerly places have become warmer due to climate change. The ranges of species adapted to cooler environments are shrinking. These trends have been tracked for butterfly populations as a whole, but no previous study has investigated how the individual butterflies that make up these populations are able to respond to small scale temperature changes.

Full article here

Study identifies British butterflies most threatened by climate change

Speckled Wood is one of the multi-brood species benefiting from climatic warming (Andrew Steele).

Scientists have discovered why climate change may be contributing to the decline of some British butterflies and moth species, such as Silver-studded Blue and High Brown Fritillary.

Many British butterflies and moths have been responding to warmer temperatures by emerging earlier in the year and, for the first time, scientists have identified why this is creating winners and losers among species.

The findings will help conservationists identify which species most at risk from climate change, the researchers say.

The study, led by the University of York, found that emerging earlier in the year may be benefiting species which have multiple, rapid breeding cycles per year and are flexible about their habitat (such as Speckled Wood), by allowing them more time to bulk up in numbers before winter and expand their range northwards.

Single-generation species that are habitat specialists, such as High Brown Fritillary, are most vulnerable to climate change (Iain Leach / Butterfly Conservation).

In contrast, early emergence may be causing species that are habitat specialists and have only a single life-cycle per year, to shrink in numbers and disappear from northern parts of the country within their historical range.

Single-generation species that are habitat specialists (such as the rare High Brown Fritillary) are most vulnerable to climate change because they cannot benefit from extra breeding time. Emerging earlier may throw them out of seasonal synchrony with their restricted diet of food resources, the researchers suggest.

The researchers studied data on butterflies and moths, contributed by citizen scientists to a range of schemes including Butterflies for the New Millennium and the National Moth Recording Scheme (both run by Butterfly Conservation), over a 20 year period (1995-2014) when the average spring temperatures in Britain increased by 0.5 degrees.

Temperature increases are causing butterflies and moths to emerge on average between one and six days earlier per decade over this time period.

Silver-studded Blue is another species struggling with rapid climate change (Bob Eade).

Lead author of the study, Dr Callum Macgregor, from the Department of Biology at the University of York, said: "Because butterflies in general are warmth loving, scientists predicted that the range margin of most species would move north as a result of global heating. However this hasn’t happened as widely or as quickly as expected for many species.

"Our study is the first to establish that there is a direct connection between changes in emergence date and impacts on the habitat range of butterflies and moths. This is because emerging earlier has caused some species to decline in abundance, and we know that species tend only to expand their range when they are doing well"

Professor Jane Hill, from the Department of Biology at the University of York, who leads the NERC Highlight project, said: "Our results indicate that while some more flexible species are able to thrive by emerging earlier in the year, this is not the case for many single generation species that are habitat specialists – these species are vulnerable to climate change."

Co-author Professor Chris Thomas, from the Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity at the University of York, added: "These changes remind us how pervasive the impacts of climate change have already been for the world's biological systems, favouring some species over others. The fingerprint of human-caused climate change is already everywhere we look."

Professor Tom Brereton of Butterfly Conservation said: "The study shows that we urgently need to conduct ecological research on threatened butterflies such as High Brown Fritillary, to see if we can manage land in a new way that can help them adapt to the current negative effects of climate change."

Reference

Macgregor, C J, Thomas, C D, Roy, D B & 17 others. 2019. Climate-induced phenology shifts linked to range expansions in species with multiple reproductive cycles per year. Nature Communications 10, 4455, doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-12479-w