A team of biologists has confirmed that the Xerces blue butterfly was a unique species and that its extinction in the United States was due to human impact. To reach those conclusions, the scientists sequenced the genome of a 93-year-old sample from the Field Museum in Chicago, the results of which were published in the journal Biology Letters.
The butterflies of this species, which were last seen in the early 1940s in San Francisco and became a symbol of North American insect conservation, are believed to have become extinct due to urban development.
Some questioned whether the Xerces blue butterfly was really a distinct species and not an isolated population from another existing variety of butterflies. However, thanks to the analysis carried out, it has now been possible to determine that it was a different species that ceased to exist because of the human being.
“We are in the middle of what is called the insect apocalypse: massive declines in insects are being detected around the world,” he pointed Corrie Moreau, director of insect collections at Cornell University (USA) and co-author of the study, who added that “although not all insects are as charismatic as the Xerces blue butterfly, they have enormous implications in the functioning of the ecosystems”.
“Many insects are actually the foundation of what maintains the health of many of these ecosystems. They aerate the soil, allowing plants to grow, and then feeding the herbivores, which in turn feed the carnivores. Each loss. of an insect has a huge ripple effect on ecosystems, “Moreau explained.