Population structure of pierid butterflies - II. A "Native" population of Colias philodice eriphyle in Colorado

Ward B. Watt, Diana Han, Bruce E. Tabashnik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


The structure of a bivoltine, discrete-generation population of Colias philodice eriphyle, occurring in relatively undisturbed habitat, has been examined by mark-release-recapture techniques. The population's general ecology is briefly discussed. Males eclose before females as in other Colias, and a measure of physical wear on adults is related to age of individuals and to the overall position of a sample in the flight period, again as in other Colias. Densities of adults fluctuate drastically, with the first (overwintering) brood always being less dense than the second brood. Dispersal radius of those dispersing does not vary with brood, sex, or year, although the proportion of dispersants does: more males than females disperse in the first brood, while the reverse is true in the second. A tentative behavioral explanation for this is proposed. Adult mortality is unusually high compared to other Colias. The population displays area continuity with adjacent population areas. The Wrightian neighborhood size varies in geographic extent, due to change in dispersant proportions, from 70 to 260 hectares. In adult numbers, it varies from 4-500 (or possibly fewer in very severe first-brood conditions) to upwards of 20,000 in some second broods (though not all adults present always reproduce successfully). Two possible models for the dispersal behavior of Colias are presented. One, the "excited state" model, is so far supported over the other, "continuous activity" model, by the present data and by earlier work on C. alexandra. The adult mortality level is consistent with the conclusion that this population is ecologically marginal for the species. Possible selective pressures preventing further extension of the species' distribution, including possible competition with other Colias, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-52
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1979

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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