Extraordinary long life spans in fruit-feeding butterflies can provide window on evolution of life span and aging.

Research paper by F F Molleman, B J BJ Zwaan, P M PM Brakefield, J R JR Carey

Indexed on: 16 Mar '07Published on: 16 Mar '07Published in: Experimental Gerontology


Information on the life span of organisms in the field is essential for elucidating the evolution of life span and aging. We present mark-recapture data (>30,000 marked individuals, >4000 recaptured at least once) on 47 species of fruit-feeding butterflies in a tropical forest in Uganda. The data reveal adult life spans in the field for several species that are significantly longer than previously recorded in Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths). Longevity records for species of which more than 100 individuals were recaptured ranged from 67 (Bicyclus auricruda) to 293 days (Euphaedra medon). In contrast to the majority of Lepidoptera which are short-lived, these all show exceptionally long life spans, and may thus help to better identify factors that affect aging, particularly when combined with information on temporal patterns in reproduction, strategies to avoid predation, and nutritional ecology. These key traits are readily measurable in butterflies and thus studies on fruit-feeding butterflies have much potential for gaining insight into the evolution of life span and aging, especially given the tradition of field-research on butterflies.