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Duke Studies Show That Environmental Effects Of Dams Extend To Insect Life

a small woody plant like that would be all over the place. But it just wasn't there on some islands."

Surveying the insects' food sources as well, Shahabuddin learned that "to find a fruiting tree in the forest is a pretty hard job," she said. "Last summer, I found that there wasn't more than one tree per hectare (about 2.4 acres) that was fruiting, and that was during the peak fruiting season."

To further refine her study, she decided to trace the butterflies' movements and breeding behavior with trapping-and-release experiments. She used rotting banana-baited traps to snare hungry butterflies in netting. Then she marked the trapped insect's wings, released them, and retrapped the marked butterflies later on at other locations.

These experiments showed this butterfly species "just doesn't like those small islands," Shahabuddin said. "I found that very little reproduction was taking place on small islands. The butterflies were not laying eggs there. They were laying lots more eggs on the larger islands, and on islands with a lot of host plants.

Apparently small islands were shunned because they lacked enough resources. "It's a very complicated system," she said. "If there is a high host plant density, butterflies tend to stick around longer. Consequently, they tend to lay more eggs. People assume these islands are pretty much similar in terms of resource distribution. That may be true for some species, like rodents, iguana or howler monkeys. But that's not true for some specialized butterflies."

Shahabuddin noted "many of the same processes we are studying have been found to occur in national parks, which resemble forest islands in the midst of a man-modified landscape. Such studies help to pinpoint the ecological changes taking place in our increasingly fragmented landscapes, and thus help to design conservation strategies."

Rao, another of Terborgh's students about to receive her Ph.D., joined Shah
'"/>

Contact: Monte Basgall
Monte@dukenews.duke.edu
919-681-8057
Duke University Medical Center
5-Aug-1998


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