Butterfly distribution and abundance is known to be influenced by temperature and rainfall. What is not clear, however, is how life history and flight morphological traits are affected by changes in local weather conditions. During the period 1989-1999, we explored the effects of ambient temperature and rainfall during larval development on adult phenotypic traits (body mass, forewing loading, forewing surface area and forewing length) in a Swedish population of the speckled wood butterfly Pararge aegeria. As different seasonal cohorts correspond to different developmental pathways (larval hibernating, pupal hibernating and directly developing), we analysed these morphological time series relative to developmental pathway. Phenotypic variation in response to the temperature and rainfall levels experienced during larval development differed in both magnitude and direction depending on the developmental pathway, and hence seasonal cohort, examined (i.e. there was a pathway-specific response). We suggest that through its developmental flexibility P. aegeria may be able to adjust to variation in weather conditions over time. Other less flexible species, however, may not be so fortunately buffered. To truly estimate the impact of climate change on biodiversity more fine-scale, local studies are required that examine the mechanisms underlying the response of species to climate change.
2011. Vol. 34, no 2, 336-344 p.