Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Biology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Carol C. Horvitz Nutt

Second Committee Member

Joyce Maschinski

Third Committee Member

Donald L. DeAngelis

Fourth Committee Member

J. Albert C. Uy

Fifth Committee Member

Lawrence E. Gilbert


Butterfly populations are in decline in Florida. An example is the Florida leafwing, Anaea troglodyta floridalis (Nymphalidae), a species endemic to the pine rocklands in South Florida. I used a variety of approaches to investigate the population dynamics of leafwing butterflies, including two widespread congeners, A. aidea and A. andria. This dissertation describes two population models, one that evaluated the extinction risk and sensitivity of A. t. floridalis to disturbances such as fire, and the other evaluated the sensitivity of annual population dynamics in response to seasonal life history. Using demographic data from field surveys and laboratory experiments, my work described the life cycle of individuals from egg to caterpillar, and through metamorphosis and adulthood as butterflies. The models I built represented the life cycle at multiple time scales, e.g., within seasons, between seasons within a year, and between years. Per capita predation and temperature were important within season factors affecting the survival and growth rates, respectively, of juveniles. Between seasons, the periodic stage-structured matrix model I built predicted that natural selection should favor individuals with high survival in the winter, and high reproductive output during the breeding season, a prediction that explains the differences between seasonally-dependent morphological forms of adult leafwing. Important for between year variation, I demonstrated the positive effect of fire, which decreased extinction risk and is necessary to maintain the pine rockland ecosystem endemic to South Florida. For the first time, my work integrated the entire butterfly life cycle through all seasons within an annual cycle.


Anaea; periodic matrix model; population viability analysis; endemic species; seasonal life history tradeoff; hidden Markov model