Monarchs and Milkweed: A Migrating Butterfly, a Poisonous Plant, and Their Remarkable Story of Coevolution

Princeton University Press
2
Free sample

The fascinating and complex evolutionary relationship of the monarch butterfly and the milkweed plant

Monarch butterflies are one of nature's most recognizable creatures, known for their bright colors and epic annual migration from the United States and Canada to Mexico. Yet there is much more to the monarch than its distinctive presence and mythic journeying. In Monarchs and Milkweed, Anurag Agrawal presents a vivid investigation into how the monarch butterfly has evolved closely alongside the milkweed—a toxic plant named for the sticky white substance emitted when its leaves are damaged—and how this inextricable and intimate relationship has been like an arms race over the millennia, a battle of exploitation and defense between two fascinating species.

The monarch life cycle begins each spring when it deposits eggs on milkweed leaves. But this dependency of monarchs on milkweeds as food is not reciprocated, and milkweeds do all they can to poison or thwart the young monarchs. Agrawal delves into major scientific discoveries, including his own pioneering research, and traces how plant poisons have not only shaped monarch-milkweed interactions but have also been culturally important for centuries. Agrawal presents current ideas regarding the recent decline in monarch populations, including habitat destruction, increased winter storms, and lack of milkweed—the last one a theory that the author rejects. He evaluates the current sustainability of monarchs and reveals a novel explanation for their plummeting numbers.

Lavishly illustrated with more than eighty color photos and images, Monarchs and Milkweed takes readers on an unforgettable exploration of one of nature's most important and sophisticated evolutionary relationships.

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About the author

Anurag Agrawal is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Department of Entomology at Cornell University. He lives in Ithaca, New York.
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4.5
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Mar 7, 2017
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Pages
296
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ISBN
9781400884766
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Language
English
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Genres
Nature / Animals / Butterflies & Moths
Nature / Ecosystems & Habitats / General
Nature / General
Nature / Plants / General
Science / Life Sciences / Botany
Science / Life Sciences / Evolution
Science / Life Sciences / Zoology / Entomology
Science / Life Sciences / Zoology / General
Science / Natural History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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A remarkable look at the rarest butterflies, how global changes threaten their existence, and how we can bring them back from near-extinction

Most of us have heard of such popular butterflies as the Monarch or Painted Lady. But what about the Fender’s Blue? Or the St. Francis’ Satyr? Because of their extreme rarity, these butterflies are not well-known, yet they are remarkable species with important lessons to teach us. The Last Butterflies spotlights the rarest of these creatures—some numbering no more than what can be held in one hand. Drawing from his own first-hand experiences, Nick Haddad explores the challenges of tracking these vanishing butterflies, why they are disappearing, and why they are worth saving. He also provides startling insights into the effects of human activity and environmental change on the planet’s biodiversity.

Weaving a vivid and personal narrative with ideas from ecology and conservation, Haddad illustrates the race against time to reverse the decline of six butterfly species. Many scientists mistakenly assume we fully understand butterflies’ natural histories. Yet, as with the Large Blue in England, we too often know too little and the conservation consequences are dire. Haddad argues that a hands-off approach is not effective and that in many instances, like for the Fender’s Blue and Bay Checkerspot, active and aggressive management is necessary. With deliberate conservation, rare butterflies can coexist with people, inhabit urban fringes, and, in the case of the St. Francis’ Satyr, even reside on bomb ranges and military land. Haddad shows that through the efforts to protect and restore butterflies, we might learn how to successfully confront conservation issues for all animals and plants.

A moving account of extinction, recovery, and hope, The Last Butterflies demonstrates the great value of these beautiful insects to science, conservation, and people.

Monarch butterflies are among the most popular insect species in the world and are an icon for conservation groups and environmental education programs. Monarch caterpillars and adults are easily recognizable as welcome visitors to gardens in North America and beyond, and their spectacular migration in eastern North America (from breeding locations in Canada and the United States to overwintering sites in Mexico) has captured the imagination of the public.Monarch migration, behavior, and chemical ecology have been studied for decades. Yet many aspects of monarch biology have come to light in only the past few years. These aspects include questions regarding large-scale trends in monarch population sizes, monarch interactions with pathogens and insect predators, and monarch molecular genetics and large-scale evolution. A growing number of current research findings build on the observations of citizen scientists, who monitor monarch migration, reproduction, survival, and disease. Monarchs face new threats from humans as they navigate a changing landscape marked by deforestation, pesticides, genetically modified crops, and a changing climate, all of which place the future of monarchs and their amazing migration in peril. To meet the demand for a timely synthesis of monarch biology, conservation and outreach, Monarchs in a Changing World summarizes recent developments in scientific research, highlights challenges and responses to threats to monarch conservation, and showcases the many ways that monarchs are used in citizen science programs, outreach, and education. It examines issues pertaining to the eastern and western North American migratory populations, as well as to monarchs in South America, the Pacific and Caribbean Islands, and Europe. The target audience includes entomologists, population biologists, conservation policymakers, and K–12 teachers.Contributors: Anurag A. Agrawal, Cornell University; Jared G. Ali, Michigan State University; Sonia Altizer, University of Georgia; Michael C. Anderson, Eden Prairie, Minnesota; Sophia M. Anderson, Eden Prairie, Minnesota; Kim Bailey, Georgia Department of Natural Resources; Rebecca Batalden, University of Minnesota; Kristen A. Baum, Oklahoma State University; Scott Hoffman Black, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation; Brianna Borders, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation; Lincoln P. Brower, Sweet Briar College; Wendy Caldwell, University of Minnesota; Mariana Cantú-Férnandez, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; Nicola Chamberlain, Harvard University; Sonya Charest, Montreal Insectarium; Andrew K. Davis, University of Georgia; Alma De Anda, Covina, California; Guadalupe del Rio Pesado, Alternare, A.C., Mexico; Janet Kudell-Ekstrum, USDA Forest Service; Linda S. Fink, Sweet Briar College; Mark Fishbein, Oklahoma State University; Juan Fernández-Haeger, University of Córdoba, Spain; Eligio García Serrano, Fondo Monarca, Mexico; Mark Garland, Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project; Brian Hayes, Monarch Teacher Network; Elizabeth Howard, Journey North; Mark D. Hunter, University of Michigan; Sarina Jepsen, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation; Diego Jordano, University of Córdoba, Spain; Matthew C. Kaiser, University of Minnesota; Ridlon J. Kiphart, Texas Master Naturalists; Marcus R. Kronforst, University of Chicago; Jim Lovett, University of Kansas; Eric Lee-Mäder, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation; Stephen B. Malcolm, Western Michigan University; Héctor Martínez-Torres, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; Susan Meyers, Stone Mountain Memorial Association; Erik A. Mollenhauer, Monarch Teacher Network; Mía Monroe, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation; Eneida B. Montesinos-Patino, Monarch Butterfly Fund; Gail M. Morris, Southwest Monarch Study; Elisha K. Mueller, Oklahoma State University; Kelly R. Nail, University of Minnesota; Karen S. Oberhauser, University of Minnesota; Diego R. Pérez-Salicrup, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; Amanda A. Pierce, Emory University; John Pleasants, Iowa State University; Victoria Pocius, University of Kansas; Robert Michael Pyle, Northwest Lepidoptera Survey; M. Isabel Ramírez, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; Sergio Rasmann, University of California, Irvine; Gerald Rehfeldt, USDA Forest Service; Eduardo Rendón-Salinas, World Wildlife Fund–Mexico; Leslie Ries, National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center; Jacobus C. de Roode, Emory University; Richard G. RuBino, Florida State University; Ann Ryan, University of Kansas; Cuauhtémoc Sáenz-Romero, Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo; Lidia Salas-Canela, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; Phil Schappert, Biophilia Consulting; Priya C. Shahani, Oregon State University; Benjamin H. Slager, Western Michigan University; Michelle J. Solensky, University of Jamestown; Douglas J. Taron, Chicago Academy of Sciences/Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum; Orley R. Taylor, University of Kansas; Rocío Treviño, Protección de la Fauna Mexicana A.C.; Francis X. Villablanca, California Polytechnic State University; Dick Walton, New Jersey Audubon/Cape May Bird Observatory; Ernest H. Williams, Hamilton College; Elisabeth Young-Isebrand, University of Minnesota; Myron P. Zalucki, University of Queensland; Raúl R. Zubieta, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW'S 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes
Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef. She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy; as Kolbert observes, it compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.

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