Date of Award

Spring 5-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Conservation Biology


Biological Sciences

Major Professor

Philip J. DeVries


Documenting life history characteristics of populations, especially of herbivorous insects such as butterflies, is fundamental to the ecological study of tropical rainforests. However, we know relatively little about tropical forest butterflies. Here, I combine information gathered using the mark-release-recapture (MRR) approach with manipulative and observational experiments in a natural environment to explore aspects of the population biology of three closely-related species of Costa Rican fruit-feeding understory butterflies (Cithaerias pireta, Dulcedo polita, and Pierella helvina), specifically: vertical stratification, attraction to and persistence in fruit-baited traps, relative abundance and distribution, movement patterns, probabilities of recapture and daily survival, and factors that affect those probabilities. Among the three focal species there were differences in capturability, recapturability, spatial distribution, and degree of vertical stratification. Males appear to fly within smaller home ranges than females, and P. helvina can traverse the entire forest reserve in a single day. These findings have implications for the genetic diversity of these populations and for the risk of local extinction in the face of changing ecological conditions.


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