The woeful record of this site in recording the addition of species to the threatened and endangered species list should not prevent us from noting a new member from Florida. Twelve years after it received a petition, the Fish and Wildlife Service placed the Miami blue butterfly on the list of endangered species.
The butterfly was emergency-listed in August — Aug. 10, 2011, to be precise — but that protection expired April 4, the day before the final listing was announced. The rule was published in the Federal Register April 6.
In addition, FWS designated as threatened, due to similarity of appearance to the Miami blue, the cassius blue butterfly (Leptotes cassius theonus), ceraunus blue butterfly (Hemiargus ceraunus antibubastus), and nickerbean blue butterfly (Cyclargus ammon).
Those species were listed “in portions of their ranges,” FWS said.
Nabokov was right on taxonomy
Here’s an interesting tidbit from the final rule on the species’ genetic makeup that supports novelist and lepidopterist Vladimir Nabokov’s view on the proper genus for the Miami blue:
Although some authors continue to use Hemiargus, Nabokov (1945, p. 14) instituted Cyclargus for some species, which has been supported by more recent research…
Kurt Johnson (in litt. 2002), who has published most of the existing literature since 1950 on the blue butterflies of the tribe Polyommatini, reaffirmed that thomasi belongs in the genus Cyclargus (Nabokov 1945, p. 14), not Hemiargus. Accordingly, Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri (Pelham 2008, p. 21) and its taxonomic standing is accepted (Integrated Taxonomic Information System 2011, p. 1).
The reference is to Nabokov’s 1945 paper, Cyclargus n.g. Notes on Neotropical Plebejinæ (Lycaenidae, Lepidoptera). Psyche 52:1-61.
The subject of Nabokov’s research has been discussed at length before. In the New York Times last year, Carl Zimmer wrote
Nabokov’s reputation as a scientist languished until the 1990s. Kurt Johnson, an entomologist then at the American Museum of Natural History, examined the genitals of the [Polyommatus] blues and was surprised at their diversity. Searching the literature for help, he came across Nabokov’s work. As he later described in the 2000 book “Nabokov’s Blues,” written with Steve Coates, Dr. Johnson set about reviving Nabokov’s classification. Working with Zsolt Balint of the Hungarian Museum of Natural History and Dubi Benyamini, an Israeli collector, he collected new blues and carefully examined them. In the end, they decided Nabokov was right in his classification. Along the way, they even named some new species in his honor, like Nabokovia cuzquenha.
The article also discusses how Nabokov “envisioned [the blues] coming to the New World from Asia over millions of years in a series of waves.”
Few professional lepidopterists took these ideas seriously during Nabokov’s lifetime. But in the years since his death in 1977, his scientific reputation has grown. And over the past 10 years, a team of scientists has been applying gene-sequencing technology to his hypothesis about how Polyommatus blues evolved. Last week in The Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, they reported that Nabokov was absolutely right.
“It’s really quite a marvel,” said Naomi Pierce of Harvard, a co-author of the paper.
- Center for Biological Diversity news release
- Miami Herald article
- Miami Blue Fund
- Species profile from FWS ECOS
- 90-day finding (substantial), 1/3/2002
- The well-tuned blues: the role of structural colours as optical signals in the species recognition of a local butterfly fauna (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae: Polyommatinae) (Abstract of paper accepted for publication by Journal of the Royal Society