News from IBE (CSIC-UPF)
The painted lady butterfly Vanessa cardui is a charismatic species that every year goes from Europe to Africa and back. Up until now, it was known that this butterfly vanishes from Europe in autumn and it was believed to establish in North Africa to spend the winter. However, thanks to dedicated field expeditions in Africa conducted by scientists from the IBE (CSIC-UPF) and Harvard University, it has been discovered that this butterfly can reach the tropical African savannah, in journeys involving distances of 4000 km.
As a consequence, Vanessa cardui not only withstands flying such long distances, but it is also capable of consecutively cross mountain ranges, the Mediterranean and the Sahara Desert in just a few days. Despite the apparent frailty of any butterfly, this species can survive extreme temperatures and orientate while flying at high altitude. Gerard Talavera and Roger Vila, the researchers that led the study, spent an entire fall season travelling across countries as Senegal, Benin, Chad and Ethiopia in search for the presence of this butterflies. During their expedition they could observe thousands of southwards migrants in the middle of the sahelian Chad.
Talavera G & Vila R (2016). Discovery of mass migration and breeding of the painted lady butterfly Vanessa cardui in the Sub-Sahara: the Europe-Africa migration revisited. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society