Dr. Lincoln Brower Comments
The monarch "changes its ecological niche entirely
when it transforms from a caterpillar to an adult butterfly," says
Dr. Brower. "They are two ecologically different organisms, as distinct
as a field mouse and a hummingbird."
the term 'niche.'
In the science of ecology, the word "niche" is defined
as: "The role an organism plays in a community. How it interacts
with the environment and other organisms." More simply put, an
organism's habitat is its home, and its niche is its job.
describe how a field mouse is like a monarch caterpillar, and a hummingbird
is like an adult monarch.
As a caterpillar, the monarch is a relatively sedentary, herbaceous,
leaf-eating machine that's storing energy and building up biomass.
As an adult it's a highly mobile, nectivorous, flower-orienting organism.
The ecological function of the adult butterfly is to disperse, flying
around and laying eggs (or in the case of males, mating with females
who do). Just think: In the spring a female returning from Mexico
may spread her eggs across 1,000 miles! In contrast, a caterpillar
may spend its entire time in the space of a few meters, interacting
only with its immediate surroundings.