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PLoS One. 2015 Nov 25;10(11):e0141371. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0141371. eCollection 2015.

Do Healthy Monarchs Migrate Farther? Tracking Natal Origins of Parasitized vs. Uninfected Monarch Butterflies Overwintering in Mexico.

Author information

1
Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, United States of America.
2
Environment Canada, 11 Innovation Blvd., Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.
3
Department of Biology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.
4
Department of Biology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America.

Abstract

Long-distance migration can lower parasite prevalence if strenuous journeys remove infected animals from wild populations. We examined wild monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) to investigate the potential costs of the protozoan Ophryocystis elektroscirrha on migratory success. We collected monarchs from two wintering sites in central Mexico to compare infection status with hydrogen isotope (δ2H) measurements as an indicator of latitude of origin at the start of fall migration. On average, uninfected monarchs had lower δ2H values than parasitized butterflies, indicating that uninfected butterflies originated from more northerly latitudes and travelled farther distances to reach Mexico. Within the infected class, monarchs with higher quantitative spore loads originated from more southerly latitudes, indicating that heavily infected monarchs originating from farther north are less likely to reach Mexico. We ruled out the alternative explanation that lower latitudes give rise to more infected monarchs prior to the onset of migration using citizen science data to examine regional differences in parasite prevalence during the summer breeding season. We also found a positive association between monarch wing area and estimated distance flown. Collectively, these results emphasize that seasonal migrations can help lower infection levels in wild animal populations. Our findings, combined with recent declines in the numbers of migratory monarchs wintering in Mexico and observations of sedentary (winter breeding) monarch populations in the southern U.S., suggest that shifts from migratory to sedentary behavior will likely lead to greater infection prevalence for North American monarchs.

PMID:
26606389
PMCID:
PMC4659535
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0141371
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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