Local versus landscape determinants of butterfly movement behaviors

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Large-scale patterns of animal distributions and abundances may be determined by mechanisms that act at local or landscape scales. We studied the movement behaviors of four species of bottomland butterflies in a natural setting to examine the determinants of movement behavior across different scales. We tested the relative importance of three landscape attributes: drainage slope, boundary type, and stream proximity, and local habitat attributes related to food plants and plants that influence habitat structure. Across species, we tested the relative importance of organism size and habitat specificity to explain response variation. In general, butterfly responses to landscape features were more universal than responses to local features. Specifically, results from this study showed that drainage slope did not influence movement behaviors but boundary type, stream proximity, and host plant abundance all influenced movement patterns. Responses to local features varied by species and often complemented landscape effects on movement. Responses to all features were not related to butterfly size, but did vary in accordance with butterfly host plant specificity. These behaviors help to explain landscape-level variation in population distribution among species.

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