Scientists Confirms That Xerxes Blue Butterfly is the First Insect to be Driven Into Extinction By Humans

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The Xerces blue butterfly has been extinct since the 1940s. Experts have now confirmed through its DNA that the butterfly could be the first insect driven to extinction by urban development. Until recently, scientists have been unable to figure out if the Xerces blue was its own species or part of a sub-population of another butterfly species called the silvery blue which is found across the West Coast of North America.

Xerxes blue is proven to be a butterfly species

Professor Corrie Moreau, the director of the Cornell University Insect Collections, States that the Xerxes blue and silvery blue species have a lot in common hence the confusion. To put the matter to rest, they used the Grainger Bioinformatics Centre and Pritzker DNA lab to cause the insects DNA.

Researchers at the Field Museum, Chicago, analysed the DNA from collections of the butterfly found in museum. They retrieved a piece of the abdomen from an insect sample from 1928 to carry out the test. Moreau says the process was not an easy one as she wanted to make sure the rest if the sample remained intact. As a result, she had to be extremely careful.

They discovered that the DNA of the Xerces blue qualifies it as its own species. It was also confirmed that the butterfly is now extinct.

According to Dr Felix Grewe, the lead author of the study and the co-director of the Field Museum of Natural History’s Grainger Bioinformatics Centre, it has long been suspected that the butterfly species was driven into extension by humans. This study now confirms that.

Effort should be put into insect conservation

Scientists have toyed with the idea of reviving the extinct butterfly species. However, Dr Grewe says that it is more important to protect the insects that still exist. There has been an increase in insect decline all over the world and this could have an impact on the ecosystem.

Insects play an important role in the environment. They aerate soil which in turn enables slants to grow and feed animals. A decline in insect population could have dire effects on the ecosystem.

Xerxes blue has been used to promote conversation on insect conservation with one insect conservation group naming itself after the butterfly.

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