Maculinea arion

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tpe
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Maculinea arion

Post by tpe »

Or large blue? I think these things were totally extinct in the UK recently? Now we know where they went;). As larvae are raised in ants nests, preumably as the ants got rarer so did the butterflies. Does anyone know if they protected the ants as much as the butterfly? For an insect to become protected it tends to have to be pretty?!.

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The 2 above are definatly the same species, so counting spots looks not to be a great way to identify these things :) ?

Tim

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Re: Maculinea arion

Post by rjlittlefield »

tpe wrote:I think these things were totally extinct in the UK recently?
"Extirpated" would be more precise, but the word is not commonly known.

According to Wikipedia it disappeared from the UK in 1979, "but has since been reintroduced by conservationists."

There is a good article in Lepidopterology, HERE. Interesting snippets:
The study shows how the large blue's extreme dependence on a single ant species led to the butterflies' demise, as their habitat became overgrown, causing soil temperatures to drop and ant numbers to diminish. Before this discovery, butterfly collectors were generally blamed for the decline of this butterfly
...

In the late 1970s, after 40 years of trying to save the large blue by fending off butterfly collectors, conservationists followed Thomas' recommendations and restored the butterfly's proper habitat by clearing scrub and reintroducing grazing animals.

Starting in 1983, Thomas and his colleagues began introducing large blue butterflies imported from Sweden, into restored habitat sites. As of 2008, the butterflies occupied 30 percent more colonies than they had in the 1950s, before the major decline began. The large blue is now one of just three UK butterflies on course to meet the Convention of Biological Diversity's target to reverse species' declines by 2010.
--Rik

Ken Ramos
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Post by Ken Ramos »

Butterflies with "cell towers!" Those are lovely. :D

The BAT
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Re: Maculinea arion

Post by The BAT »

tpe wrote:Or large blue? I think these things were totally extinct in the UK recently?
Image
[Tim
Wouldn't surprise me at all if they became extinct, with unnecessary 'bulk' collections like this being stored??? Just a personal opinion.
Bruce

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Post by rjlittlefield »

Seems like collections always touch raw nerve endings.

Carefully sampled, labeled, cataloged, and preserved museum & research collections are generally one of the best methods available to find out what's out there and how they might relate to each other. With mammals, you can do a lot with scat; with butterflies, that's rather more challenging. The impact of sampling on populations is also far different, given the relatively large number of individuals that will be found in even a threatened insect population.

As described in the article that I linked earlier, the original populations of these butterflies were done in by changes in their habitat. Following restoration of habitat over 25 years ago, colonies were re-established from foreign populations. I presume the re-established colonies were started from what then appeared to be the closest relatives to the original colonies. Those judgments were probably based on appearance and ecology since DNA testing at the time was pretty crude.

The labels shown here suggest that these specimens are now undergoing modern DNA sequencing tests. I'm guessing that the date shown, 6.5.2008, tells when the leg sample was taken.

Tim, do you know when the specimens themselves were collected? What else can you tell us about this collection and how it is now being used?

--Rik

PS. I just noticed that this thread was misplaced in Nature Photography. I have moved it to Technical and Studio.

tpe
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Post by tpe »

It also seems like this is an odd case from Riks article, in that the collectors actually contributed to preserving the local populations by providing the initial information on their population reduction?

The collection is part of a larger and very old collection (by the looks of the oldest container about 150 years but will check). So far it has not suffered any infestations or deterioation, and I am told this is unusual for a collection of this age. (although some of the pins have a green filamentous clump where they meet the thorax). I will ask dates that it was collected over, but it is in the region of 400 odd specimines collected for the Museum of Zoology or Natural History Museum (zoologiskmuseu) in Copenhagen. Recently they have been resampling the collection to see how bottlenecks/genetic drift are afffected in relation to change in population size and time.

I kind of realised afterwards that this was not really a post for the nature forum, it was in the natural history museum and under very non studio type conditions :). However, they have said that if necessary we can move some of the samples individually if anyone knows anything that would be useful to get a shot of ? :)

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Post by rjlittlefield »

Tim, thanks for the additional information. Very interesting!
It also seems like this is an odd case from Riks article, in that the collectors actually contributed to preserving the local populations by providing the initial information on their population reduction?
I think the oddness in this case is only that recovery has been successful.

As I wrote earlier, collections provide most of the information about distributions, both current and historical. What I did not mention is that museum collections and other aggregates, such as checklists and distribution maps, often draw from smaller collections made by individual naturalists. At the University of Washington, where I have some personal knowledge, much of the butterfly collection consists of material contributed from personal collections. Roughly 1000 of my own specimens are physically in the UW collection, representing a very sparse sampling of north central Washington in the 1960's. More data, not always physical specimens, have been gleaned from the specimen labels and field notes made available by other collectors.

The problem with field notes alone is that all they contain is what the original observers noticed and thought to write down. It's not unusual to realize years later that what people thought was a single species was actually two or more. And of course even the most careful observers in the 1800's were notably deficient at recording DNA sequences.

It is unfortunate that carefully curated resources like the one pictured here are sometimes misinterpreted as "unnecessary bulk collections". That description might be appropriate for a drawer of unlabeled specimens being warehoused for commercial sale, but that's a far different situation.
However, they have said that if necessary we can move some of the samples individually if anyone knows anything that would be useful to get a shot of?
There is some risk of damage anytime specimens are disturbed. Since these are not replaceable, moving them should not be done casually.

The best people to ask about "useful" would be ones either researching this species or curating the collection. The museum folks might well appreciate having some high quality digital photos that they could post out to provide a sort of virtual access to the collection.

--Rik

Harold Gough
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Post by Harold Gough »

Here are some details of the latest success in re-estalblishing the species:

http://www.ceh.ac.uk/news/news_archive/ ... em_24.html

Harold
My images are a medium for sharing some of my experiences: they are not me.

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