Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Guantanamo Bay Lepidoptera study sets baseline for future research

Date:
September 6, 2012
Source:
University of Florida
Summary:
Scientists publishing the first study on butterflies and moths of Guantanamo Bay Naval Station have discovered vast biodiversity in an area previously unknown to researchers.

This Fulvous Hairstreak butterfly, Electrostrymon angelia, was observed and collected by University of Florida researchers at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in January.
Credit: Deborah Matthews Lott

University of Florida scientists publishing the first study on butterflies and moths of Guantanamo Bay Naval Station have discovered vast biodiversity in an area previously unknown to researchers.

Appearing in the Bulletin of the Allyn Museum Sept. 5, the study creates a baseline for understanding how different plant and animal species have spread throughout the Caribbean.

"Biodiversity studies are extremely important because they give us clues about where things were and how they evolved over time so we can better understand what may happen in the future," said study co-author Jacqueline Y. Miller, curator of Lepidoptera at the Florida Museum of Natural History's McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity on the UF campus. "We're also looking at climate change over time, and butterflies are biological indicator species since they are associated with particular plants as caterpillars and often found in particular habitats."

During a seven-day trip to the site in January, researchers collected 1,100 specimens representing 192 moth and 41 butterfly species, including the invasive lime swallowtail whose proximity to the U.S. poses a threat to citrus plants. Researchers are freezing tissue samples from many of the collected specimens for future DNA analysis and expect to later describe new species, said lead author Deborah Matthews Lott, a biological scientist at the museum.

"Guantanamo is a special area because it's a desert-type habitat due to the rain shadow effect from the mountains," Lott said. "There's fewer species there, but there's going to be a tendency for more specialized endemic species."

Leased to the United States in 1903, the land has unintentionally become a wildlife refuge, offering researchers the opportunity to better understand the island's natural habitats. Located in the southeast corner of Cuba, its unique and complex geological history of volcanic activity, erosion and shifting sea levels resulted in geological deposits closely associated with marine environments.

"We are comparing the moths and butterflies collected at GTMO to those recorded from the U.S., Bahamas, other nearby islands and Central America," Miller said. "With the historical geology of the area, there are some potentially new species and such surveys enable us to better understand the evolutionary history of butterflies and moths."

Cuba is the largest island in the West Indies and researchers' knowledge of its geological and paleontological history is mainly based on published articles, said co-author Roger Portell, the Florida Museum's invertebrate paleontology collections manager. Portell has led fieldwork on the naval station since 2007.

"Because it is a military base -- and this is true for many military bases, which typically have large areas of land -- people are not trampling, bulldozing or developing the land," Portell said. "So there is a large area of land in the southeast corner of the island that has basically been untouched for 100 years."

Portell and other museum researchers will continue studying biodiversity at the naval station to create a repository of specimens and information for scientists, as well as to help develop a plan for conserving the natural habitat, Portell said. By incorporating information about the geology, paleontology and animals inhabiting the land today, the study creates a 'ground zero' image of the area that is useful as a baseline for continuing research, said Daniel Janzen, a professor of conservation biology at the University of Pennsylvania.

"In the tropics, there are very few places where people have invested a lot of time, over time, and pooled the information together about one place like that," Janzen said. "What they did was pick out one spot, try to learn everything they could and put it all together into one paper, so anybody working there has got the whole package of information at one time. That, to me, is one of the major significances of the study."

Museum researchers plan to conduct additional fieldwork on the base in December.

"The military is working to preserve the natural habitats, so they're interested in knowing about the animals, the plants and what's native and non-native," Portell said. "Now that we have really good comparative material, we can compare that to Florida and other states in the southeast U.S., the Caribbean, Central America and South America and basically fill in some of the blanks in our knowledge."

Study co-authors include Terry Lott and James Toomey of the Florida Museum.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida. The original article was written by Danielle Torrent. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Florida. "Guantanamo Bay Lepidoptera study sets baseline for future research." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 September 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120906144835.htm>.
University of Florida. (2012, September 6). Guantanamo Bay Lepidoptera study sets baseline for future research. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120906144835.htm
University of Florida. "Guantanamo Bay Lepidoptera study sets baseline for future research." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120906144835.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Scientists say a female colossal squid weighing an estimated 350 kilograms (770 lbs) and thought to be only the second intact specimen ever found was carrying eggs when discovered in the Antarctic. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Since the arrival of Ebola in Ivory Coast, Ivorians have been abandoning their pets, particularly monkeys, in the fear that they may transmit the virus. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins