Trends and progress in studying butterfly migration

Chowdhury S, Zalucki MP, Amano T, Poch TJ, Lin M-M, Ohwaki A, Lin D-L, Yang L, Choi S-W, Jennions MD & Fuller RA (2022) Trends and progress in studying butterfly migration. Integrative Conservation, 1, 8-24.

Several hundred butterfly species show some form of migratory behaviour. Here we identify how the methodologies available for studying butterfly migration have changed over time, and document geographic and taxonomic foci in the study of butterfly migration. We review publications on butterfly migration published in six languages (English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish), summarise how migration in butterflies has been studied, explore geographic and taxonomic patterns in the knowledge base, and outline key future research directions. Using English search keywords, we found only 58 studies from Asia; however, after searching in local languages, we found an additional 98 relevant studies. Overall, butterfly migration studies are mostly from North America and Europe. Most studies focus on three species: monarch (Danaus plexippus), painted lady (Vanessa cardui) and red admiral (Vanessa atalanta). About 62% of publications are focused on the monarch, with nearly 50% of migratory butterfly species mentioned in only a single paper. Several research methods have been applied to ascribe migratory status and to study the physiology, neurobiology, and ecology of migration; however, virtually all this research is on a handful of species. There remain hundreds of species for which we do not understand the comprehensive seasonal pattern of movement, flight destinations, wintering, or breeding grounds. A better understanding of movement ecology and migratory connectivity is needed to effectively conserve migratory butterflies. It is essential that research becomes more geographically and linguistically representative since migrants frequently cross political borders and international cooperation is necessary for their conservation.

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