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Climate warming will fundamentally alter basic life history strategies of many ectothermic insects. In the lab, rising temperatures increase growth rates of lepidopteran larvae but also reduce final pupal mass and increase mortality. Using in situ field warming experiments on their natural host plants, we assessed the impact of climate warming on development of monarch (Danaus plexippus) larvae. Monarchs were reared on Asclepias tuberosa grown under 'Ambient' and 'Warmed' conditions. We quantified time to pupation, final pupal mass, and survivorship. Warming significantly decreased time to pupation, such that an increase of 1 degrees C corresponded to a 0.5 day decrease in pupation time. In contrast, survivorship and pupal mass were not affected by warming. Our results indicate that climate warming will speed the developmental rate of monarchs, influencing their ecological and evolutionary dynamics. However, the effects of climate warming on larval development in other monarch populations and at different times of year should be investigated.


Originally published in PeerJ.

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