DNA test proves butterfly extinct by human action was a species of its own

Butterfly Collection in the United States Shows Extinct Species Photo: Field Museum

RIO – Researchers have confirmed through DNA analysis that the extinct blue butterfly Xerces (glaucopsis exercises) had a species of its own. She lived in the San Francisco area of ​​the United States, but her existence was erased by humanitarian work. It was last seen in the 1940s. The sample for the analysis in question was collected 93 years ago. Since then, the question has remained whether Xerces was a species of its own or whether it was a subpopulation of another butterfly found in the American West.

For Felix Gravey, co-director of the Grainger Bioinformatics Center, the study, published in Biology Letters, shows the importance of preserving insects, as does the Field Museum in Chicago, whose collection has helped compare the DNA of geraniums with that of other species. made possible.

“When this butterfly was collected 93 years ago, no one thought of sequencing its DNA. That’s why we have to continue collecting for researchers 100 years from now – said the article’s lead author in a museum statement posted on the “Eurek Alert” website.

Butterfly Collection in the United States Shows Extinct Species Photo: Field Museum

Scientists knew that Xeris became extinct as a result of urban development, but until then the question remained whether it was actually its own species or a subpopulation of another common butterfly. So they used a 1928 specimen that is part of the museum’s collection and found that its DNA is unique enough to be classified as a species.

Cory Morrow, director of insect collections at Cornell University, said, “The Xerris blue butterfly is the most coveted insect for conservation because it is the first insect in North America we know of to have been extirpated by humans.” – Taking the first step and ripping off part of the abdomen (from a 93-year-old butterfly) was very stressful, but it was also encouraging to know that we might be able to answer a question that almost hasn’t been answered. 100 years and it cannot be answered any other way.

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Felix Grave and Cory-Moro participated in a study that proved the Xerces butterfly was its own species. Photo: Field Museum
Felix Grave and Cory-Moro participated in a study that proved the Xerces butterfly was its own species. Photo: Field Museum

The researcher explained that, although DNA is somewhat stable, it can be degraded over time. Despite this, you can compare several sections of the code and indicate what the original version will be like.

“It’s like you built a bunch of identical Lego structures and then dropped them. The individual structures would break, but if you look at them all together, you can figure out the shape of the original structure,” he explained .

Moro emphasized how important it is to preserve animals, without forgetting insects, so that there is no imbalanced ecosystem.

“We are in the midst of what is called an insect apocalypse, with widespread insect declines being traced around the world,” he said. “And while not all insects are as charismatic as the blue butterfly Xerces, they have huge implications for how ecosystems function. Many insects are actually at the premise of keeping many of these ecosystems healthy. They make soil a breeze. This allows plants to grow, which then feed on herbivores, which then feed on carnivores. Every loss of an insect has a massive impact on the ecosystem.

Muhammad Wayne

About the author: Muhammad Wayne

Wayne is a reporter who covers everything from oil trading to China's biggest conglomerates and technology companies. Originally from Chicago, he is a graduate of New York University's business and economic reporting program.

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