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No Miami blue butterfly on Florida's coasts anymore

Community and ForumBlogNo Miami blue butterfly on Florida's coasts anymore

Lev Bely, 20.03.2012 14:47

Last year august the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced an emergency listing* of the Miami Blue Butterfly (Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri) as endangered, “We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), exercise our authority pursuant to section 4(b)(7) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), to emergency list the Miami blue butterfly (Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri) as endangered. This subspecies is currently known to occur at only a few small remote islands within the Florida Keys. Current population numbers are not known, but are estimated in the hundreds of butterflies.”

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that it may be too late because no Miami blue butterflies were seen on Bahia Honda since 2010. That might mean that the subspecies has become totally extinct.

Once C. thomasi bethunebakeri habited Florida's coasts in large numbers, but shopping malls, roads and residencies built on these lands made the subspecies diminished to nearly nothing. By the early 90's these butterflies could be found only within the Florida Keys archipelago.

After Hurricane Andrew in 1992 only about 50 Miami Blue butterflies supposed to be left. Since 2003 to 2010 scientists artificially increased the population in the lab to 30000 butterflies and “landed” them in the Keys, but the population didn't survive. Meanwhile, few “wild” ones living on Bahia Honda began vanishing too. The reason seemed to be lots of iguanas which were the offspring of pet iguanas that people let “free” once they got bored. Iguanas destroyed plants that Miami Blue butterflies used for egg-laying.

Few more Florida butterflies and moths are also endangered: the Florida Leafwing (Anaea troglodyta) and the Florida Purplewing (Eunica tatila), Bartram’s Scrub-Hairstreak (Strymon acis), the Martial Scrub-Hairstreak (Strymon martialis) and the Amethyst Hairstreak (Chlorostrymon maesites), the Zestos Skipper (Epargyreus zestos), the Schaus' Swallowtail (Papilio aristodemus).

It turns out so that the Endangered Species Act of 1973 gets to work right after the species needing most to get protected has totally vanished or just no more than few animals left. And it's barely possible to be saved.

*The US Fish and Wildlife Service publication on endangered species from August 10th, 2011: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-08-10/pdf/2011-19812.pdf.

Care2.com, http://www.care2.com

Photo: Care2.com, http://www.care2.com

Associated Press on vanishing Miami Blue butterfly

All the rest posts on: species decline, USA


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