Key to butterfly climate survival may be colour coded

A butterfly’s ability to absorb or reflect heat from the sun with its wings could be a matter of life and death in a warming world, according to British research published Thursday calling for gardens, parks and farms to host shady, cooling-off spots.

While all butterflies are ectotherms — they cannot generate their own body heat — the ability to regulate temperature varies significantly, researchers said.

The study found that species that struggle to moderate their body temperatures often rely on being able to escape the full heat of the sun in shaded “microclimates” to survive. 

These butterflies are “likely to suffer the most from climate change and habitat loss,” said lead author Andrew Bladon, of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology.

Researchers said the cooler niches they rely on have dwindled as habitat is lost and fragmented, driving population decline in two-thirds of butterfly species in Britain.

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