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. This is 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. They are 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. The newspaper is in Fairbanks, Alaska.
 
Scientists have been seeing the Tanana Arctic butterfly for more than 60 years. Its similarity to the Chryxus Arctic led them to believe it was the same species. Warren noticed its distinct characteristics. He is senior collections manager at the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the Florida Museum of Natural History. It is on the UF campus in Gainesville.
 
The Tanana Arctic has white specks on the underside of its penny-colored wings. They give it a "frosted" appearance. It is larger and darker than the other species.
 
It also has a unique DNA sequence. It is very similar to that in nearby populations of White-veined Arctics, said Warren. This has led to the hypothesis that the new species is a hybrid.
 
More field research is needed. Scientists want 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. They 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. It 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 (142)
  • gavind-kut
    3/28/2016 - 07:52 a.m.

    I thought your story was great! I really liked how you explained your topic. I've liked butterflies because of how cool they are, it is cool that there could be a new type of butterfly.

  • leyhannah1-pay
    3/28/2016 - 08:05 a.m.

    I Think the tanana arctic has a frosted appearance because They are the Chryxus Arctic and the White-veined Arctic, all three species lived in the Beringia region before the last ice age.

  • samanthas-1-ste
    3/28/2016 - 09:26 a.m.

    The white specks on the underside of the wings give it a frosted appearance. Also, it will need to blend in to the snowy environment of Alaska to survive.

  • anthonyg1-ver
    3/28/2016 - 12:44 p.m.

    I think it might have a frosted appearance because of is grayish, white color in its wings and its patterns...

  • anthonyg1-ver
    3/28/2016 - 12:46 p.m.

    I think it has a frosted appearance so that it can blend in with the frost in Alaska.

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

    Why might the Tanana Arctic have a "frosted" appearance? It has a "frosted" appearance because of white specks on the underside penny-colored wings. Another reason they have this appearance is because of the climate they live in and the are able to adapt to the climate. The climate they live in has permafrost that is likely to melt and is changing. That is why they have a "frosted" appearance.

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

    The Tanana Arctic has white specks under its wings give it a frosted appearance. The frosted look could help them blend in the environment to survive. It could be related to the White-veined Arctic. The Tanana Arctic is gonna be tested to see if it is a hybrid. The Tanana Arctic needs to blend in with its surroundings, so it does not die and it also could be in its DNA to have a frosted look.

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

    The Tanana Arctic has a frosted appearance because the scientists who have seen the butterfly think that it's a hybrid between Chryxus Arctic and the White-veined Arctic butterflies it's said that these butterflies were alive during the ice age and that they could help discover more about the ice age. The Tanana also may have its color from the weather that its living in and the climate which is cold and snowy which makes a dotted pattern that creates a camoflauge appearance. Since the Tanana Arctic is related to two other species those species could make the butterfly have its natural camo.

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

    The reason why the Tanana Arctic butterfly have a frosted appearance is that they have white specks on its penny-colored wings. They are hybrids so that might be the cause the frosted pattern. However it might be that they live in Alaska which might just make it appear frosted, because of the colder terrain in the place it lives in. Also it might be that it helps them blend in with the environment.

  • lillianh-obr
    3/28/2016 - 01:35 p.m.

    The Tanana Artic has a frosted looking appearance because it has white spots on the bottom side of it's wings that give it that appearance.

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