Over A Century Ago, These Blue Butterflies Inhabited The Sand Dunes of San Francisco, But Since Then, They Have Been Declared Extinct

Oleksii - - illustrative purposes only

Once upon a time, over a century ago, the Xerces blue butterfly inhabited the sand dunes of San Francisco. The butterflies laid their eggs on a plant called deerweed. So where are they now?

The last Xerces blue butterfly was spotted in 1941 at San Francisco’s Lobos Creek. Since then, they have been declared extinct. The Xerces blue is actually the first insect that has been driven into extinction due to human activities.

As urban development caused the dunes and deerweed to disappear, the butterfly species were simultaneously being wiped from existence.

Scientists agreed that the loss of the Xerces blue had a devastating impact on the surrounding environment, but they did not see eye to eye on whether the butterfly was a distinct species.

Recently, new research has come to light, proving that the Xerces blue was indeed its own distinct species.

Through genetic testing, scientists extracted a DNA sample from a 93-year-old specimen from the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.

From there, they were able to compare the genetic code of the Xerces blue butterfly to the structures of other common blue butterflies.

The comparison revealed that the extinct Xerces blue butterfly was genetically distinct enough to be categorized as a separate species. Finally, the debate has been settled.

Although the butterflies may no longer be around, it’s possible that they may return in the future. The Xerces blue is being considered for a process called resurrection, which works by bringing back extinct species through cloning.

Oleksii – – illustrative purposes only

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