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Researchers were 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 a butterfly species endures annual trans-Saharan circuits like some birds do ?the Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui). Their results were published today in the journal Biology Letters.
Butterfly - Km - Sahara - Desert - Resources
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.
In a previously published study, the researchers demonstrated that painted lady butterflies migrate from Europe to tropical Africa by the end of summer, crossing the Mediterranean Sea and Sahara Desert.
Fate - Migrants - Offspring - Hypothesis - Species
The fate of these migrants and that of their offspring remained unknown. "Our hypothesis was that the species initiates a reverse northward migration towards Europe in spring, thus completing a regular migratory cycle," states Roger Vila, one of the authors.
With the aim of confirming this hypothesis, they studied the natal origin of the butterflies that reached the Mediterranean region in early spring. To do so, they analysed the stable hydrogen isotopes of the butterflies sampled in Morocco, Andalusia and Catalonia in Spain, Crete, Egypt and Israel.
An isotope is a...
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