Preprint Review Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Are Eastern and Western Monarch Butterflies Distinct Populations? A Review of Evidence for Ecological, Phenotypic, and Genetic Differentiation and Implications for Conservation

Version 1 : Received: 15 September 2020 / Approved: 16 September 2020 / Online: 16 September 2020 (07:13:35 CEST)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Freedman et al. (2021) Freedman et al. (2021)

Journal reference: Conservation Science and Practice 2021
DOI: 10.1111/csp2.432


Monarch butterflies are a species of conservation priority due to declining overwintering populations in both eastern and western North America. Declines in western overwintering monarchs—more than 99% since monitoring began—are especially acute. However, the degree to which the western monarch is a distinct biological entity is uncertain. In this review, we focus on phenotypic and genetic differentiation between eastern and western monarchs, with the goal of informing researchers and policy-makers who are interested in monarch conservation. Eastern and western monarchs occupy distinct environments and show some evidence for phenotypic differentiation—particularly for migration-associated traits—though population genetic and genomic studies suggest that they are genetically indistinguishable from one another. We suggest future studies that could improve our understanding of differences between eastern and western monarchs. We also discuss the concept of adaptive capacity in eastern and western monarchs as well as non-migratory populations outside of the monarch’s primary North American range.

Supplementary and Associated Material


conservation; monarch butterfly; migration; population ecology; population genetics


BIOLOGY, Ecology

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