The folks at the National Butterfly Center noted today that a Compton Tortoiseshell has been spotted there this week:
>>Today is the second day in a row that a Compton Tortiseshell has been seen at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. Jeff Glassberg stated “That’s incredible! It’s a Compton Tortoiseshell, a butterfly never before reported south of Missouri in the Midwest! I would say that, for the Valley, this is more unusual than almost any Mexican stray.” <<
The question becomes, where did it come from, and how do we find that out?
Nick Grishin replied on the NABA chat listserv that — in apparent conflict with long-held NABA views about capture/collecting of butterflies, which recently erupted online into a rather heated exchange — the only real way to find out is to take a DNA sample, either a part of or the entire insect:
>>This is exactly the case when the butterfly should be collected and at least one of its tarsi/legs removed. After that, if so desired, it could be released, although keeping it might be more beneficial (in case experiment with the leg fails, or more DNA is needed from the body).
The tarsus contains enough DNA to get some sequences. These sequences could be compared to Compton Tortiseshell sequences across the US, and we will have a chance of figuring out which population the bug came from. DNA sequences vary a little bit with the population – e.g. insects in the west differ from those in the east. Is it from the closest populations in Missouri? Or is it from Canada? We might have an answer.
If the butterfly is eaten by a bird, we will lose this chance. I hope proper authorization could be obtained to perform this interesting, one-of-a-kind scientific experiment.<<
This is certainly where the scientific rubber meets the road. Thoughts? Use the comment form below to weigh in …