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Locomotion is a key aspect of performance in many ectotherms, and thermal constraints on locomotion can be important determinants of activity patterns, reproductive success and fitness (Adolph and Porter, 1993; Kearney ., 2010; Buckley and Kingsolver, 2012).

Terrestrial ectotherms can adapt evolutionarily to local climate conditions through shifts in behaviour or morphology that allow them to achieve preferred body temperatures or through physiological shifts in the thermal range of performance (Angilletta, 2009).

The time available for flight activity is limited in cooler environments, and flight time can strongly limit lifetime reproductive success for populations and species at higher elevations and latitudes have increased wing melanin and setal lengths, adapting them to local climatic conditions (Watt, 1968; Roland, 1982; Kingsolver, 1983b; Ellers and Boggs, 2004).

The body temperatures needed for maximal flight activity are similar for different species and populations (34–38°C; Watt, 1968; Ellers and Boggs, 2004), but the lower thermal limits for flight initiation are less clear (Kingsolver, 1983b).

Morphological differences (in wing melanin and thoracic setae) drive body temperature differences between species and contributed strongly to differences in the time and probability of flight and air temperatures at flight initiation.

Our results suggest that differences both in thermal sensitivity (15% contribution) and in morphology (85% contribution) contribute to the differences in flight initiation between the two species in the field.

Here, we use field experiments with butterflies require elevated body temperatures to initiate and maintain active flight, and use behavioural thermoregulation (including basking) to achieve these body temperatures (Watt, 1968).

By combining information from both experiments, we quantify the contributions of morphological and physiological mechanisms to local adaptation along an elevation gradient.

butterflies are an important model system for understanding thermal biology and local adaptation to climate because they have both morphological and behavioural mechanisms for thermoregulation.

Although studies with tethered butterflies show that species have similar body temperature ranges of 30–40°C for active flight (Watt, 1968), field observations of freely flying butterflies suggest that flight may be initiated at body temperatures below 30°C, especially for is confined to subalpine and alpine meadows typically above 2500 m elevation in the southern Rocky Mountains (Watt, 1968).

The species exhibit substantial variation in thermally important phenotypes.

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