From: National University of Singapore via EurekAlert!
Published August 18, 2016 11:34 AM

Urbanization affects diets of butterflies

A study led by researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) revealed that most tropical butterflies feed on a variety of flower types, but those that are 'picky' about their flower diets tend to prefer native plants and are more dependent on forests. These 'picky' butterflies also have wings that are more conspicuous and shorter proboscis. The reduction in native plants due to urbanisation affects the diet of such butterflies, and researchers suggest that intervention may be needed to manage their preferred flower resources.

These findings are the outcome of a three-year study on how urbanisation affects the diets of tropical butterflies. "Butterfly species exhibit different levels of flower preferences and flower specialisation. Understanding the complex phenomenon of flower specialisation of butterflies is important as butterflies are known to be important pollinators of tropical forests. Changes in vegetation structure due to urbanisation could alter butterfly behavior, and in turn, result in changes in native plant pollination and reproduction," explained Mr Anuj Jain, who conducted the study as part of his doctoral research at the Department of Biological Sciences at NUS Faculty of Science.

"It is worrying that butterflies that are flower specialists may become increasingly dependent on fewer native flower sources. To conserve such butterflies, there is a need to develop intervention measures to maintain the availability of suitable flowering plants," Mr Anuj added.

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