Butterflies heading north as temperatures rise, reveal Sheffield experts

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BRITISH butterflies are heading north as global temperatures rise, reveals new research carried out by experts including acadremics in Sheffield.

The study, published today in the journal Molecular Ecology, reveals that climate change is causing certain species to move and adapt to a range of new habitats.

Led by academics at the universities of Sheffield and Bristol, the study aims to understand the role of evolution in helping a species to successfully track ongoing climate change.

With temperatures rising, many species are moving further north in the UK but this may mean crossing a landscape with increasingly less of their preferred habitat, academics said.

Evolutionary change in the ability to use geographically widespread habitats or increased ability to move longer distances can help species to track the warming climate and move northwards.

The Brown Argus butterfly is successfully expanding its distribution northwards in the UK and uses a range of distinct habitats.

Using genetic techniques to detect evolutionary change, the researchers were able to show that the colonisation of new sites further north by the Brown Argus had involved significant adaptation during or following colonisation.

Researcher James Buckley said: “These findings are important as understanding the likelihood and speed of such adaptive change is important in determining the rate of species extinction with ongoing climate change.”