Ectothermic organisms, such as insects, are highly temperature dependent and are good models for studies that predict organisms’ responses to global climate change. Predicting how climate change may affect species distributions is a complicated task. However, it is possible to estimate species’ physiological constraints through maximum critical temperature, which may indicate if the species can tolerate new climates. Butterflies are useful organisms for studies of thermal tolerance. We tested if species have different thermal tolerances and if different habitats influence the thermal tolerance of the butterflies present in Brazil’s campo rupestre (open areas) and forest islands (shaded areas). A total of 394 fruit-feeding butterflies, comprising 45 species, were tested. The results separated the species into two statistically different groups: the resistant species with maximum critical temperature of 53.8 ± 7.4 °C, and the non-resistant species with maximum critical temperature of 48.2 ± 7.4 °C. The species of butterflies displayed differences in maximum critical temperature between the campo rupestre and forest islands that can be related to the two distinct habitats, but this did not correlate phylogenetically. Species from the forest islands were also divided into two groups, “resistant” and “non-resistant”, probably due to the heterogeneity of the habitat; the forest islands have a canopy, and in the understory, there are shaded and sunny areas. Species from forest islands, especially species that displayed lower thermal tolerance, may be more susceptible to global warming.
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