It's fall and time for a new round of Monarch:PNAS Abstract

MexicoDoug at MexicoDoug at
Wed Nov 12 12:57:58 EST 2003

Hmmmm...the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of 
Sciences...Perhaps we need a Proceedings of the North American Academy of Sciences on this 
one...Paul can be president.  I would join if it were free.

What's wrong with being a biased scientist, working your ass off to get 
tenure (not confirmed), all winter long, finally submitting the product of your 
labor and passion around March, generating original peer-reviewed research, on 
subjects of interest, that makes the cut past perhaps (or not)the sympathetic 
reviewers of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and gets 
published 6 months later as is typical for the review process, in this past 
Monday's Issue, November 11, 2003?  I would hardly dismiss it as "another annual 
phenomenon of press releases" from the spin doctors that would be.  Why not 
actually read the article first, available from the website, and then keep 
the Lepidopterist in question in the loop.  I imagine that after spending all 
winter of '02-'03 working on this she would have something very intersting to 
say on the subject.  Like whether this is a Chicken Little scenario or whether 
it is an original attempt to understand something that too many complain that 
no "real research" is being done about.  Even the bane of the monarch 
research establishment should give recognition when deserved.  Not to say that the 
bane's comments are not appreciated they are when backed up by reasonably 
convincing facts.

What I find interesting is that Oberhauser's last publication in the P.N.A.S. 
was one that was the 2001 so-called "round of Monarch extinction" concluding 
that "This 2-year study suggests that the impact of Bt corn pollen from 
current commercial hybrids on monarch butterfly populations is negligible".  (see 
abstract below)

It looks clear to me that the Lepidopterist authors got a hold of some 
climate prediction software, were convinced it could make a good study, and decided 
to investigate its application to modeling the Monarch migration-survival.  
Sounds fair to me.  What's the problem, especially if it is state of the art 
modeling?  That the authors like monarchs and are concerned for their welfare, 
and have made a career out of it?  That some folks are in denial about climate 
change (hey-this is a fact of life and time), that they get favorable press 
that does its job to process the info in a way that it sells?  Or simply that 
some folks are bored of hearing about monarchs, because they get more turned on 
by other bugs that don't have such a geographically complex annual life cycle?  
If so, rather than complain about the monarch getting attention, why not JUST 
DO IT, and do something like get your own software, ideas, original 
enthusiasm, organize it, spend the winter working your ass off to produce a final 
product for consumption by the scientific community with all the real life and 
newspaper opportunity you want, subjecting it to the critical comments of every 
Tom, Dick and Sally who has something to say.  And if not so dedicated, come on 
down to Michoacán some winterime without an axe to grind, sit back, kick off 
your shoes, lie on your back on a nice wool blanket, and daydream a bit while 
you simply appreciate these aggregates of butterflies in a rather unlikely 
place.  Then imagine the actual migration trip made with Monarchs with Cherubini, 
Brower, Taylor, Oberhauser, and your own face on each butterfly (just 

And to those friends who say that in 50 years it really doesn't matter 
much...or critically, is not observable, lucky Einstein didn't feel that way about 
his theories, which initially received a good hogwashing, too.  Gee, why spend 
so much on archaelogical expeditions studying milliones of years in the past, 
or Astroresearch billions of years into the past,,,and future.  Is the 
N.E.A.R. program equally a waste, then?  I am not suggesting that this compares with 
Einstein's work.  Just that the scientific method is the best we've got and 
requires an organized investment of order for advancement of 
Science in general...

Best butterflying, Doug Dawn
Monterrey, Mexico

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 10.1073/pnas.2331584100
Modeling current and future potential wintering distributions of eastern 
North American monarch butterflies 

Karen Oberhauser * and A. Townsend Peterson  
*Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, University of 
Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108; and Natural History Museum and Biodiversity 
Research Center, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045

Edited by G. David Tilman, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN, and 
approved September 23, 2003 (received for review March 19, 2003)

Monarch butterflies overwinter in restricted areas in montane oyamel fir 
forests in central Mexico with specific microclimates that allow the butterflies 
to survive for up to 5 months. We use ecological niche modeling (ENM) to 
identify areas adequate for overwintering monarch colonies under both current and 
future climate scenarios. The ENM approach permits testing and validation of 
model predictivity, and yields quantitative, testable predictions regarding 
likely future climate change effects. Our models predicted monarch presence with a 
high degree of accuracy, and indicated that precipitation and diurnal 
temperature range were key environmental factors in making locations suitable for 
monarchs. When we projected monarch distribution onto future climate scenarios 
(Hadley Centre climate models), we found that conditions were likely to be 
inadequate across the entire current winter range, particularly owing to increased 
cool-weather precipitation that could cause increased mortality. This study 
applies ENM to understanding the seasonal dynamics of a migratory species under 
climate change, and uses ENM to identify key limiting environmental parameters 
in species’ responses to climate change.

To whom correspondence should be addressed.

E-mail: oberh001 at 

Impact of Bt corn pollen on monarch butterfly populations: A risk assessment. 

Mark K. Sears*,, Richard L. Hellmich, Diane E. Stanley-Horn*, Karen S. 
Oberhauser§, John M. Pleasants¶, Heather R. Mattila*, Blair D. Siegfried, and Galen 
P. Dively** 
* Department of Environmental Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, 
Canada N1G 2W1;  United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research 
Service, Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research Unit and Department of 
Entomology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011; § Department of Ecology and 
Evolutionary Biology, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108; ¶ Department of 
Zoology and Genetics, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011;  Department of 
Entomology, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68583; and ** Department of 
Entomology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742 

Edited by M. R. Berenbaum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 
Urbana, IL, and approved August 17, 2001 (received for review June 28, 2001) 

A collaborative research effort by scientists in several states and in Canada 
has produced information to develop a formal risk assessment of the impact of 
Bt corn on monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) populations. Information was 
sought on the acute toxic effects of Bt corn pollen and the degree to which 
monarch larvae would be exposed to toxic amounts of Bt pollen on its host plant, 
the common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, found in and around cornfields. 
Expression of Cry proteins, the active toxicant found in Bt corn tissues, differed 
among hybrids, and especially so in the concentrations found in pollen of 
different events. In most commercial hybrids, Bt expression in pollen is low, and 
laboratory and field studies show no acute toxic effects at any pollen density 
that would be encountered in the field. Other factors mitigating exposure of 
larvae include the variable and limited overlap between pollen shed and larval 
activity periods, the fact that only a portion of the monarch population 
utilizes milkweed stands in and near cornfields, and the current adoption rate of 
Bt corn at 19% of North American corn-growing areas. This 2-year study 
suggests that the impact of Bt corn pollen from current commercial hybrids on monarch 
butterfly populations is negligible. 

En un mensaje con fecha 11/12/2003 12:42:00 AM Mexico Standard Time, 
monarch at escribe:

> Asunto: It's fall and time for a new round of Monarch Extinction press 
> releases. 
>  Fecha: 11/12/2003 12:42:00 AM Mexico Standard Time
>  De: <A HREF="mailto:monarch at">monarch at</A>
>  Para: <A HREF="mailto:leps-l at">leps-l at</A>
>  CC: <A HREF="mailto:TILS-leps-talk at">TILS-leps-talk at</A>
>  Enviado por Internet 
> In past years, usually in the fall or winter, Dr's Lincoln Brower, Karen     
> Oberhauser and/or Chip Taylor have made dire predictions, about the          
> potential impacts of logging in Mexico, Bt corn, tourist trampling, 
> butterfly                   
> releases, mosquito spraying etc, on migratory monarchs, but the migrants     
> continue be as abundant as ever.  This fall, Dr. Oberhauser has been         
> talking to the press about an imminent new extinction threat:
> CLIMATE changes may drown out monarch butterflies CBC News, Canada
> MINNEAPOLIS - A wetter climate is expected in Mexico in the next 50 years,
> which could do in monarch butterflies. Millions of colourful ...
> <>
> BBC News, UK
> Monarch butterflies may lose their winter habitat within 50 years
> because of climate change, say researchers. Monarchs migrate thousands ...
> Monarch Butterfly May Face Climate Threat - Newsday Climate
> change in winter home may endanger Monarch butterfly, ...
> <>
> MONARCH Butterfly May Face Climate Threat, VA
> Monarch butterflies, which journey hundreds of miles to spend the winter
> in a mountain forest in Mexico, may be endangered within 50 years
> because a changing ...
> <>
> CLIMATE threatens butterfly's 2,000-mile migration Independent, UK
>  ... Oberhauser added: "The relationship between winter mortality and
> weather conditions suggests climate-change may have important impacts on
> monarch butterflies.". ...
> <>
> MONARCH butterflies face new threat from global climate change
> Minneapolis Star Tribune (subscription), MN For eons monarch butterflies
> from the northern United States have migrated by the millions to hang from
> trees in great orange clouds high in the mountains of ...
> <>
> Paul Cherubini
> ------------------------------------------------------------ 
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