Tanana Arctic Butterfly Can Provide Climate Change Warning

A newly discovered species of Tanana Arctic butterfly can provide indications about the geographical history of Alaska and its changing climate, says lepidopterist Andrew Warren, from University of Florida, as per a report dated March 20, 2016.

The researcher states that new species of butterfly evolved from the offspring of 2 related species of butterfly, the White-veined Arctic and Chryxus Arctic. He believes that all of them lived in Beringia region before last ice age.

The Tanana Arctic butterfly is being seen by the scientists for over 60 years, but due to its similarity to Chryxus Arctic, they believe it belongs to the same species. Distinct characteristics of Tanana Arctic were identified by Andrew. It has white specs below the penny-colored wings which gives it a ‘frosted’ appearance and is darker and larger than other species.

It has a unique DNA sequence which is quite similar to that of White-veined Arctics and this led to the hypothesis that the new species is hybrid.

More field research would be needed for finding out the existence of Tanana Arctic further east in the Yukon. These butterflies are seen living in environments that are too extreme and cold for other butterflies.

In a press release, Warren stated that once the genome is sequenced, they can say whether the butterfly was helped by any special traits for surviving harsh environments.

He has plans of returning to Alaska and looking for the butterfly next year. Andrew wants to collect new speciments for fully sequencing the genome, which could reveal the history of the species and show whether it is truly hybrid or not.

This species lives in aspen and spruce forests in Tanana-Yukon River Basin. Since butterflies give a quick response to climate change, new species can serve as an early indicator for this remote region.