Climate change may be responsible for the extinction of numerous plant and animal species. Recently, drought in the Western United States caused by climate change has raised concerns. Amongst these, it was hypothesized that climate change has had detrimental effects on the Indra Swallowtail butterfly and their host plants. This rare butterfly is endemic to the Western United States. This is concerning because these butterflies are pollinators with mutualistic symbiotic relationships such that its extinction will have a cascading effect on the environment. In this research study, 7 locations throughout Nevada, California, and Arizona were chosen to determine the fitness of the butterfly populations in drought conditions. This butterfly deposits eggs on a specific plant of family Apiaceae which serve as maturation sites for caterpillars. The locations were studied before the drought and had healthy plants with an abundance of caterpillars, meaning that the butterflies were reproducing and thriving. To determine the health of these populations, several factors were studied including plant health, egg numbers, and caterpillar activity. Drought caused decreased plant health, with reduced plant numbers. Moisture is important for Indra butterflies because they will not exit diapause until water has fallen. Under drought conditions they sometimes wait years before exiting diapause to reproduce. In all locations Indra swallowtails had not left their diapause for a substantial amount of time. In addition to not seeing Indra adults near host plant locations, there was no evidence of caterpillars or eggs on plants that in years past were filled with them. The data from the locations were compared with prior data when there was normal moisture. The findings were obvious: climate change had a negative effect on the Indra butterfly. Water is imperative for these populations, and evidence shows that the lack of moisture has severely reduced plant and butterfly fitness.
University / Institution: Utah Valley University
Format: In Person
SESSION B (10:45AM-12:15PM)
Area of Research: Science & Technology
Faculty Mentor: Wayne Whaley