New butterfly species identified in Yucatan peninsula

November 23, 2011

About 160,000 species of butterflies and moths are already known, but scientists believe that a similar number still remain undiscovered. Identification and characterization of these species can be complicated by the fact that each species has an immature caterpillar and a mature butterfly form, as well as the reliance on the physical appearance for classification.

Now, though, researchers report that a type of called "barcoding" may provide a powerful tool in this effort, according to a study published in the Nov. 16 issue of the online journal .

The researchers, led by Carmen Pozo of El Colegio de la Frontera Sur in Mexico, focused on the Yucatan peninsula population of a particular family of butterflies called Nymphalidae.

Approximately 570 species of Nymphalidae have been reported in Mexico, and 121 of these occur in the Yucatan peninsula. Using DNA barcoding, which uses the sequence of a standard short gene segment to provide information about biodiversity, they found evidence for several previously undiscovered, so-called "cryptic" species that now await characterization.

They also found four cases where specimen had been misidentified based on the appearance; these erroneous classifications were corrected based on the DNA, highlighting the potential utility of this method.

Explore further: 'Barcoding blitz' on Australian moths and butterflies

More information: Prado BR, Pozo C, Valdez-Moreno M, Hebert PDN (2011) Beyond the Colours: Discovering Hidden Diversity in the Nymphalidae of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico through DNA Barcoding. PLoS ONE 6(11): e27776

Related Stories

'Barcoding blitz' on Australian moths and butterflies

May 5, 2011

In just 10 weeks a team of Canadian researchers has succeeded in 'barcoding' 28,000 moth and butterfly specimens – or about 65 per cent of Australia’s 10,000 known species – held at CSIRO's Australian National ...

Species detectives track unseen evolution

July 19, 2007

New species are evading detection using a foolproof disguise – their own unchanged appearance. Research published in the online open access journal, BMC Evolutionary Biology, suggests that the phenomenon of different animal ...

Barcodes refocus understanding of ecosystems

August 12, 2011

You're probably familiar with barcodes, those black and white stripes on most store items that bring about the familiar "beep" when scanned at checkout. They determine whether a scanned item is a gallon of milk or a can of ...

Recommended for you

Canada conservationist warns of 'cyber poaching'

February 25, 2017

Photographers, poachers and eco-tour operators are in the crosshairs of a Canadian conservationist who warns that tracking tags are being hacked and misused to harass and hunt endangered animals.

How proteins reshape cell membranes

February 24, 2017

Small "bubbles" frequently form on membranes of cells and are taken up into their interior. The process involves EHD proteins - a focus of research by Prof. Oliver Daumke of the MDC. He and his team have now shed light on ...

Neanderthal DNA contributes to human gene expression

February 23, 2017

The last Neanderthal died 40,000 years ago, but much of their genome lives on, in bits and pieces, through modern humans. The impact of Neanderthals' genetic contribution has been uncertain: Do these snippets affect our genome's ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.