Harry E. Clarke

A checklist of European butterfly larval foodplants

  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Ecology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

AbstractButterflies are charismatic insects and have been well studied, particularly in Europe. They are disproportionately used in generating and testing hypotheses; on everything from general evolutionary processes, such as speciation or host association dynamics; to conservation‐related studies, such as climate change or habitat loss. Accurate lists of the larval foodplants for European butterflies are not readily available. Mistakes are propagated and information cannot be checked for accuracy. The level of evidence is unknown, and how usage varies between countries is poorly understood. The study consulted 1119 references to produce 19,488 records of larval foodplants for European butterflies. This resulted in 5589 larval host plant records for 464 European butterfly species, with multiple references, enabling information to be checked. Information was unavailable for 59 species. The level of evidence for each relationship shows the current state of knowledge. Significant issues were identified for 3.9% of records extracted from references due to mistakes, ambiguous or unknown plant names, distribution issues, resulting in information being lost. Plants with questionable distributions suggest either mis‐identification or species that have been split. Little is known about plant usage in Eastern Europe. The larval foodplants of many monophagous and Satyrinae butterflies are poorly studied. Only 63% of threatened 2010 Red Listed butterflies have reliable host plant records. The study has provided ecologists with a valuable resource, of a more accurate checklist of the larval foodplants for each European country. Why plant usage varies over a butterfly's distribution opens up some interesting research questions.

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