Cryptozoology lovers may find this revelation very interesting! A new species of hybrid butterfly was found in Alaska surprising the scientific world. It comes from ancient breeds that lived before and during the past ice ages. It survived. What could this mean for Alaska’s other reputed monsters?
Thanks to work done by Andrew Warren, senior collections manager at the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the Florida Museum of Natural History which is located on the University of Florida’s (UF) Gainesville campus, we have another beautiful butterfly added to the roster of known animals.
Meet Oeneis tanana, (photo left of female) a butterfly that belongs to the group of butterflies called the Arctics. It’s the first one identified in 28 years. Now seriously, did you ever think there were butterflies up in Alaska? I was surprised because it’s so cold up there. But this hearty variety thrives in the forests around the Tanana-Yukon River basin, among spruce and aspen trees.
So far testing has opened the possibility that O. tanana is a hybrid of two older species, Chryxus Arctic (O. chryxus), and the White-veined Arctic (O. bore) who may have mated to produce their special offspring. The scientists plan to perform further DNA testing to confirm this hypothesis.
Important to note, during the last ice age, 28,000 to 14,000 years ago, this basin was never glaciated. Scientists figure during this cold period the Tanana Arctic and White-veined Arctic species settled in Beringia while the Chryxus Arctic migrated further south into the Rockies.
Believe it or not, this butterfly was hiding in plain sight for decades in museum archives. How many times have we heard that lately? Fortunately Warren recently noticed that though it was similar to the Chryxus Arctic, it had its own distinguishing features.
Among them, there are many white specks underneath the “penny colored” wings, so the butterfly looks frosted. Tanana Arctic is larger than Chryxus Arctic and a bit darker. Most importantly O. tanana has a unique DNA sequence, very closely related to that of the White-veined Arctics. So this is why the scientists strongly suspect O. tanana (pictured right) is a hybrid.
Warren said, “Once we sequence the genome, we’ll be able to say whether any special traits helped the butterfly survive in the harsh environments. This study is just the first of what will undoubtedly be many on this cool butterfly.”
Warren plans to continue his research next year by going back to Alaska’s Tanana basin and finding other samples of this species to include in his research. This is especially important on the level of DNA testing.
Warren was also quoted as saying the following, which is what got me thinking about the other Alaskan “monsters” that we’ve contemplated here in CryptoVille:
“Hybrid species demonstrate that animals evolved in a way that people haven’t really thought about much before, although the phenomenon is fairly well studied in plants. Scientists who study plants and fish have suggested that unglaciated parts of ancient Alaska known as Beringia, including the strip that once connected Asia and what’s now Alaska, served as a refuge where plants and animals waited out the last ice age and then moved eastward or southward from there. This is potentially a supporting piece of evidence for that.”
So could these findings support the possibility of larger creatures seeking refuge in Beringia and perhaps mating to produce heartier hybrids? I’m thinking of the Saber wolf (left) and the Alaskan tiger here.
We’ve speculated whether these two large species could have survived the ice age and whether they were hybrids of older species. People in remote areas of Alaska still report seeing some strange and unsettling creatures there that sound a lot like huge wolves and large tigers.
Searching through the more temperate Tanana basin has to be a lot easier than trying to plow through the rugged wilderness covering most of the rest of the state, areas where these larger mammals would live. How many times do we hear about people going missing? (Artist’s drawing of a confrontation between an Alaskan tiger and a Saber wolf, right.)
In a recent River Monsters episode when they were in Alaska fishing for halibut, host Jeremy Wade spoke to a fishing guide who told him people go missing frequently, even on nice sunny days. In that interview, the guide said that five people had gone missing so far that summer (if my memory serves, it was something like that.)
So what chance does anyone have of surviving remote and treacherous mountain locations? While searching for large animals that could easily kill you?
Still, my hope is that science finds these larger creatures one day. For that matter, how about Bigfoot?! There are tons of reports of people seeing Bigfoots throughout Alaska.
Oh boy, it’s frustrating, isn’t it?
Still, the possibilities are so exciting that we must keep trying to piece these wonderful puzzles together. One sweet glorious day, we will know for sure!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! It’s a good day to keep the faith! 😉
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all….
~Emily Dickinson, c.1861
(Artwork above by Cryptid-Creations on Deviant.)