Why Lighter-Hued Butterflies and Dragonflies Are Faring Better Than Their Darker Counterparts

Yep, it’s climate change.

(Photo: Cavan Images/Getty Images)
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

Do you worry much about climate change? Probably not, according to a new Gallup poll that surveyed 513 random American adults in March and found only 24 percent worry about the issue “a great deal.”

The top three concerns—the economy, federal spending and the budget deficit, and affordable access to health care—may clue us in to why so few get worked up about climate change: It doesn’t appear to affect our money and health as immediately. Well, another study puts out the latest plea involving global warming. If we don’t want to act against the threat for ourselves, we should at least do it for the butterflies.

Scientists from London and Copenhagen studied 366 butterfly species and 107 dragonfly species across Europe from 1988 to 2006. They found that the darker-colored insects were migrating toward Western Europe, the Alps, and the Balkans, where it’s cooler. The lighter-colored butterflies, while also gradually moving toward the chillier parts of Europe, have mostly dominated the warmer south. They fare better in the heat than their darker peers, whose coloring absorbs more sunlight. Lighter-colored insects can deflect light to avoid overheating.

Researchers have long suspected that the planet’s changing climate affects species distribution, and this study proves a direct link between the two.

“We now know that lighter-colored butterflies and dragonflies are doing better in a warmer world,” wrote coauthor Carsten Rahbek. “We have also demonstrated that the effects of climate change on where species live are not something of the future, but that nature and its ecosystems are changing as we speak.”

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