Alaska has a new butterfly This image provided by lepidopterist Andrew Warren shows the newly discovered Tanana Arctic butterfly. (Andrew Warren/Florida Museum of Natural History via AP)
Alaska has a new butterfly
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A new species of butterfly could provide clues about Alaska's geological history and its changing climate, according to a University of Florida researcher.
 
Research by lepidopterist Andrew Warren suggests that the newly discovered Tanana Arctic butterfly evolved from the offspring of two related butterfly species, the Chryxus Arctic and the White-veined Arctic. He thinks all three species lived in the Beringia region before the last ice age. The story was reported in The Daily News-Miner of Fairbanks, Alaska.
 
Scientists have been seeing the Tanana Arctic butterfly for more than 60 years, but its similarity to the Chryxus Arctic led them to believe it was the same species. Warren noticed its distinct characteristics as senior collections manager at the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.
 
The Tanana Arctic has white specks on the underside of its penny-colored wings, giving it a "frosted" appearance, and it is larger and darker than the other species.
 
It also has a unique DNA sequence that is very similar to that in nearby populations of White-veined Arctics, said Warren, leading to the hypothesis that the new species is a hybrid.
 
More field research is needed to find out whether the Tanana Arctic also exists further east into the Yukon. Arctic butterflies live in environments that are too cold and extreme for most other butterflies and can survive in part thanks to natural antifreeze their bodies produce.
 
"Once we sequence the genome, we'll be able to say whether any special traits helped the butterfly survive in harsh environments," said Warren.
 
He plans to return to Alaska and look for the butterfly next year. Warren wants to collect new specimens in order to fully sequence the genome, which could reveal the species' history and show whether it's truly a hybrid.
 
The Tanana Arctic lives in spruce and aspen forests in the Tanana-Yukon River Basin. Because butterflies react quickly to climate change, the new species could serve as an early warning indicator for the remote region.
 
"This butterfly has apparently lived in the Tanana River valley for so long that if it ever moves out, we'll be able to say 'Wow, there are some changes happening,'" Warren said. "This is a region where the permafrost is already melting and the climate is changing."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why might the Tanana Arctic have a “frosted” appearance?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (39)
  • ians2-pay
    3/28/2016 - 07:56 a.m.

    This is so cool! To think there are things on the Earth that we still haven't discovered is amazing, especially in the "information era". I have personally been to Alaska and it's easy to see how there can be such a variety of life there!

  • tiaraf1-pay
    3/28/2016 - 08:18 a.m.

    The scientific version of why the Tanana Artic has a frosted appearance is because of the white speaks on the underside of its penny colored wings.

  • sharathr1-pay
    3/28/2016 - 09:55 a.m.

    This article was interesting because it showed the climate change and its impact on the environment. We also found a new species which is also great since there are many undiscovered species out there and the more we find the better.

  • thomersons1-pay
    3/28/2016 - 10:20 a.m.

    Interesting how we continue to keep finding new species gives the world a brighter perspective

  • madisenl-obr
    3/28/2016 - 01:34 p.m.

    The Tanana Arctic butterfly is a butterfly recently discovered in the wonderful state of Alaska. Many lepidopterist believed the Tanana Arctic was a similar butterfly, the Chryxus Arctic. Lepidopterist believe the Tanana Arctic is a hybrid offspring of the Chruyxus Arctic and White-Veined Arctic. The Tanana Arctic must use the look of frost to camouflage itself among the terrain. Neither the Chryxus Arctic or White-Veined Arctic have this certain "frosted" look, so how would the Tanana Arctic get the look? Maybe it's due to the different biological structure of the DNA or maybe there's a whole other species of butterfly that was included in the Tanana Arctic's biochemistry. I really hope lepidopterist, Andrew Warren and others discover more about the Tanana Actic and other Alaskan butterflies. Someday I hope to see butterflies of all kinds thriving in their natural habitat, living free and in the wild.

  • TehyaWhite-Ste
    3/29/2016 - 01:24 p.m.

    I think finding new species is so cool because it shows that there is still so much more to learn. However, this butterfly looks more like a moth.

  • Steve0620-yyca
    3/29/2016 - 07:41 p.m.

    There is a new species of butterfly discovered called the Tanana Arctic butterfly evolved from two other butterflies named the Chryxus Arctic and the White-veined Arctic butterfly. Butterflies react quickly to climate change but some butterflies can live in the Arctic while most can not. Researchers are trying to find out more information about the Tanana Arctic butterfly because it is still recent.
    I think that the Tanana Arctic butterfly might have a frosted appearance because it name includes Arctic and the butterfly could hide or adapt to new places.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    3/29/2016 - 09:50 p.m.

    Alaska might have been able to discover a new butterfly that is found in Alaska which people might have been able to already see the butterfly because people had thought that the Tanana Arctic is also known. The Tanana Arctic might have been one of the three butterfly species that had been able to become resistant to the cold weather that Alaska has which most butterfly species are resistant to the cold weather. The scientists might have been able to find out that the Tanana Arctic had been around since the last day of the ice age which made a lot species to die down. People might have been able to find out about the Tanana Arctic to still be surviving in the modern day which people are still making the climate change which the butterfly reacts very quickly to climate change.
    Critical Thinking Question: Why might the Tanana Arctic have a "frosted" appearance?
    Answer: I know that the Tanana Arctic have a frosted appearance on them which are able to make the Tanana Arctic to produce antifreeze on its body to resist cold weather.

  • mackenzieg11-col
    3/31/2016 - 07:40 p.m.

    The Tanana Arctic musth have a "frosted" appearance because of its "unique DNA sequence" It is the offspring of the Chryxus Arctic and the White-veined Arctic. The Tanana Arctic butterfly also is from Alaska which as we all know is a very cold state so that could also act as maybe a camouflage for the butterfly. Maybe this is a way the Tanana Arctic adapted to Alaska.

  • sarab1-col
    3/31/2016 - 07:41 p.m.

    It may have a frosted appearance for camouflage.

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