Olivia Stoa

Stress Responses from Exposure to Heavy Metals Using a Butterfly Model

The introduction of heavy metals into our environment have led to pollution and lead to concerns about the health of both humans and animals living near contaminated areas. Pollinators, including insects, are a key component to a healthy ecosystem and rely on their environment. This means they uptake substances in it. This leaves the question as to whether or not pollinators are capable of adapting in response to environmental stressors like metal exposure, and if they are, what mechanisms they employ. This project investigates the physiological effects of the heavy metal concentrations in the twin cities on pieris rapae, or the cabbage white butterfly. Pieris rapae are known for their abilities to thrive in many types of locations. This project focuses on manipulating the diet of pieris rapae and examining any changes they may undergo to adapt to their conditions. It was hypothesized that pieris rapae that are originally from a high metal environment and are raised on a high metal diet will already be well adapted to their high. Pieris rapae were collected from multiple sites of varying metal contamination. These butterflies were then bred and the offspring were raised on a control diet or a metal enhanced diet. Their survival rates, development times, and body size were used to quantify adaptations they could have made. It was found that they were overall unfazed by changes in their conditions, though this raises more questions on the mechanisms behind how they physically adapt so well.