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The Painted lady Butterfly
Posted 04 Jul 2018
The painted lady butterfly is a migratory species in Europe, and a common visitor to the Channel Islands, previously known to migrate from Europe to the Afrotropics during the autumn.
Butterflies are obviously much harder to track on migration than birds and the fate of this butterfly species and its offspring remained unknown. Butterfly migration can be very different to that in birds where a bird like the swallow moves between, often very distant but well demarcated, summer and winter areas.
Researchers are now able to demonstrate that painted lady butterflies return from the Afrotropical region to recolonise the Mediterranean in early spring, travelling an annual distance of 12,000 km across the Sahara Desert.
While the Palearctic-African migratory circuit is typically associated with birds, scientists from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE), a joint research centre of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and Pompeu Fabra University (UPF), in Barcelona, Spain, found that the painted lady Vanessa cardui endures annual trans-Saharan circuits like some birds do.
This butterfly species travels 12,000 km and crosses the Sahara Desert twice to seasonally exploit resources and favourable climates on both sides of the desert. Few species are known to perform annual long-range trans-Saharan circuits, and that of the painted lady is the longest migratory flight known in butterflies to date.
by Simon Byland