Tag Archives: mexico

Extinct species of fish reintroduced into its native habitat in Mexico

A little river in Mexico is the site of one of 2021’s most heartwarming tales — the reintroduction of a species that had gone extinct in the wild.

Tequila splitfin (Zoogoneticus tequila). Image via Wikimedia.

We often hear stories about animals going extinct, and they’re always heartbreaking. But, every so often, we get to hear of the reverse: a species that had gone extinct, being reintroduced into the wild. The waters of the Teuchitlán, a river in Mexico that flows near a town bearing the same name, can now boast the same tale.

Efforts by local researchers, conservationists, and citizens, with international support, have successfully reintroduced the tequila splitfin (Zoogoneticus tequila), a tiny fish that only lived in the Teuchitlán river but had gone extinct during the 1990s, to the wild.

Re-fishing

In the 1990s, populations of the tequila splitfin began to dwindle in the Teuchitlán river. Eventually, it vanished completely.

Omar Domínguez, one of the researchers behind the program that reintroduced the species, and a co-authored of the paper describing the process, was a university student at the time and worried about the fish’s future. Pollution, human activity, and invasive, non-native species were placing great pressure on the tequila splitfin.

Now a 47-year-old researcher at the University of Michoacán, he recounts that then only the elderly in Teuchitlán remembered the fish — which they called gallito (“little rooster”) because of its brightly-colored, orange tail.

Conservation efforts started in 1998 when a team from the Chester Zoo in England, alongside members from other European institutions, arrived with several pairs of tequila splitfin from the aquariums of collectors and set up a lab to help preserve the species.

The first few years were spent reproducing the fish in aquariums. Reintroducing these to the river directly was deemed to be too risky. So Domínguez and his colleagues built an artificial pond on-site, in which the fish could breed in semi-captivity. The then-40 pairs of tequila splitfins were placed in this pond in 2012, and by 2014 they had multiplied to around 10,000 individuals.

By now, their results gave all the organizations involved in the effort (various zoos and wildlife conservation groups from Europe, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates) enough confidence to fund further experimentation. So the team set their sights on the river itself. Here, they studied the species’ interactions with local predators, parasites, microorganisms, and how they fit into the wider ecosystem of the area.

Then, they placed some of the tequila splitfins back into the river — inside floating cages. This step, too, was a marked success, and the fish multiplied quickly inside the cages. When their numbers grew large enough, around late 2017, the researchers marked the individual fish and set them free. In the next six months, their population increased by 55%, the authors report. The fish are still going strong, they add: in December 2021, they were seen inhabiting a new area of the river, where they were completely extinct in the past.

It’s not just about giving a species a new lease on life, the team explains. Their larger goal was to restore the natural equilibrium of the river’s ecosystem. Although there is no hard data on environmental factors in the past to compare with, Domínguez is confident that the river’s overall health has improved. Its waters are cleaner, the number of invasive species has declined, and cattle are no longer allowed to drink directly from the river in some areas.

Local communities were instrumental in the conservation effort.

“When I started the environmental education program I thought they were going to turn a deaf ear to us — and at first that happened,” Domínguez said.

However, the conservationists made sustained efforts to educate the locals through puppet shows, games, and educational materials, and presentations about zoogoneticus tequila. Among others, citizens were told about the ecological role of the species, and the part it plays in controlling dengue-spreading mosquitoes.

The tequila splitfin is currently listed as endangered on the IUCN’s red list.

The paper “Progress in the reintroduction program of the tequila splitfin in the springs of Teuchitlán, Jalisco, Mexico” has been published online by the IUCN CTSG (Conservation Translocation Specialist Group). An update on the project has been published in the magazine Amazonas.

Over 800 mammoth bones discovered in massive fossil stash in Mexico

If you like mammoths, you’re going to love this.

Archeologists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) reported finding the largest-ever body of mammoth remains. The trove includes 824 bones from at least 14 different animals and was unearthed in central Mexico.

Image credits Edith Camacho / INAH.

Even more excitingly, the team believes that this stash is the oldest known example of a mammoth trap or ambush, set by our ancestors over 14,000 years ago.

Big stash of bigger animals

“This is the largest find of its kind ever made,” the institute said in a statement (original text in Spanish).

The fossils were found in the municipality of Tultepec near the site where a new airport is under construction. The team reports that some of the bones found showed signs that the animals were hunted. As the bones are estimated to be around 14,000 to 15,000 years old, the team says this is the earliest example of such a trap ever found.

Two human-dug pits created in those days of yore were also found at the site, which the team believes were used to trap the animals. Each pit is about 1.7 meters deep and 25 meters in diameter. Remains of two other species that have gone extinct in the Americas — a horse and a camel — were also found.

“Mammoths lived here for thousands of years. The herds grew, reproduced, died, were hunted,” archaeologist Luis Cordoba told local media. “They lived alongside other species, including horses and camels.”

The two pits were found on a site that’s earmarked for use as a garbage dump. It’s still unclear whether work on the dump will proceed.

Mysterious 16th-century Mexican Megadeath pathogen discovered

The Megadeath from 16th century Mexico is one of the biggest epidemiological mysteries of humankind. Now, researchers from at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History might have finally solved it.

"Coronado sets out to the north" — oil painting by Frederic Remington Spanish Francisco Vázquez de Coronado Expedition (1540 - 1542), passing through Colonial New Mexico, to the Great Plains. Source: Wikipedia

“Coronado sets out to the north” — oil painting by Frederic Remington Spanish Francisco Vázquez de Coronado Expedition (1540 – 1542), passing through Colonial New Mexico, to the Great Plains. Source: Wikipedia

Between 1545 and 1576, epidemics of “cocoliztli” (Nahuatl for “pest”) were indigenous hemorrhagic fevers thought to be transmitted by rodent hosts and aggravated by extreme drought conditions.

Until recently, the only information scientists had about the killer pathogen was based on historical findings describing symptoms. Many scientists have correlated the wipe-out with the arrival of Spanish expeditors.

The research team applied a new method of investigation: a screening technique called the Metagenome Analyzer Alignment Tool, or MALT, which allows researchers to process millions of sequencing reads within hours and match these with known bacteria from a reference database.

Scientists took samples from an ancient graveyard in proximity to Oaxaca city. “Teeth are an excellent source of DNA,” says Kirsten Bos, an anthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History who worked on the study. One important reason is that pathogens are well preserved by the enamel.

“The screening technique used here will be transformative for future work on archaeological disease — it’s no longer necessary to have a candidate pathogen in mind for molecular detection,” Bos said. “The flexibility offered by our approach is what’s needed to tackle many questions related to disease history and ecology, where you often don’t know what disease you’re looking for until you’ve found it.”

Åshild J. Vågene conducting lab work at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
Credits: Elizabeth Nelson

“We intend to apply similar techniques to search for diseases in other archaeological samples from different time periods and locations. This technique opens so many doors for us to learn about disease in the past.” she added.
Researchers discovered that Salmonella enterica (the bacteria that cause paratyphoid fever) was present in the teeth of 11 people buried in a large Mixtec cemetery in southern Mexico.

Overview of Teposcolula-Yucundaa, showing its location in the Mixteca Alta region of Oaxaca, Mexico (A), and its central administrative area (B), where excavations took place. (C) shows a drawing of individual 35, from which an S. enterica genome was isolated.
Åshild J. Vågene et al. Salmonella enterica genomes from victims of a major 16th century epidemic in Mexico. Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Paratyphoid fever is caused by fecal contamination of food and water. Today, it usually encountered in poor, crowded places. It’s possible that the Spanish aggravated the spread by relocating people and instituting new agricultural practices.

“This specific pathogen may be one of several causes for the disease,” said Åshild Vågene, a co-author of the paper.

“We can only look for pathogens that we know exist today,” she added. “We can’t look for things that we don’t know existed.It’s the first piece of the puzzle to perhaps finding out what caused this epidemic mystery,” she concluded.

Aerial view of the tetzacualco (shrine) with water drained from the pond. Credit: SAS-INAH.

Stone shrine discovered inside Mexican volcano depicts mythical Aztec universe

Mexican archaeologists have discovered a stone sanctuary at the bottom of a pond below the Iztaccihuatl volcano that seems to depict a mythical model of the universe.

Aerial view of the tetzacualco (shrine) with water drained from the pond. Credit: SAS-INAH.

Aerial view of the tetzacualco (shrine) with water drained from the pond. Credit: SAS-INAH.

The site, known as “Nahualac”, is at least 1,000 years old, judging from ceramic materials. Some of them have been identified as belonging to the Coyotlatelco (750-900 AD), Mazapa (850 to 900 AD) and Tollan Complex (900-1150 AD) cultures.

Archaeologists at the National Institute of Anthropology and History led by Iris del Rocio Hernandez Bautista believe that the site was designed to depict Meso-American myths about the creation of the universe. Namely, it’s believed the earth monster Cipactli floated on primeval waters and then split itself, thus creating the heavens and earth.

The Nahualac site covered in water. Credit: SAS-INAH.

The Nahualac site covered in water. Credit: SAS-INAH.

Archaeologists claim that the stone shrine, called a ‘tetzacualco’, emulates this myth due to its positioning. According to them, the way it was placed made the stone shrine look like it was floating on the water surface, fitting with the myth. The Mesoamericans likely used a ritual control of water from nearby springs to irrigate the pond and create the visual effect.

“These visual effects, in addition to the characteristics of the elements that make up the site and the relationship they have with each other, make us suppose that Nahualac could represent a microcosm that evokes the primitive waters and the beginning of the mythical time-space,” Bautista said in a statement.

“The intention that water surround specific ritual architectural elements seems to have been an important part of Mesoamerican thought.”

Mexican researchers at the site. Credit: SAS-INAH.

Mexican researchers at the site. Credit: SAS-INAH.

Credit: SAS-INAH.

Credit: SAS-INAH.

About 150 meters southeast of the structure, over a wide valley which has a number of natural springs, archaeologists also found decorative pieces associated with the rain god Tlaloc. These, along with pieces from the sanctuary itself, are currently examined for their use and origin. The ritualistic nature of the site is further strengthened by organic remains — charcoal and fragments of pink polished schist material — recovered from tripod bowls arranged as an offering.

Believe it or not, there are actually wild jaguars living in the United States. These handful of individuals will become isolated from the rest of the population south of the border if Trump's wall will get erected. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Trump’s border wall could threaten 111 endangered species

Believe it or not, there are actually wild jaguars living in the United States. These handful of individuals will become isolated from the rest of the population south of the border if Trump's wall will get erected. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Believe it or not, there are actually wild jaguars living in the United States. These handful of individuals will become isolated from the rest of the population south of the border if Trump’s wall will get erected. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Deep down, we all hoped President Trump’s ‘big, beautiful wall’ was just a ruse — an attempt to incite American sentiment and shift votes into his rather small hands. But by all accounts, the man seems to be serious about it. If left to his devices, it seems quite likely that a 1,300-mile-long concrete wall will be erected along the US-Mexico border. Even if it’s as big and grandiose as Trump boasts, research suggests it won’t stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the country (on the contrary) or drugs. But if there’s one thing this border wall will be good at is stopping animals from flowing in and out of Central America northwards, and vice-versa.

According to the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) “111 endangered species, 108 species of migratory bird, four wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries, and an unknown number of protected wetlands” could be threatened by Trump’s border wall which genetically isolates populations and blocks seasonal migration. These include ocelots, bears, Bighorn sheep or the last wild jaguars in the US. Even the US national bird, the Bald eagle, will be affected by this wall which is set to disrupt its habitat.

The border with Mexico is around 3,100 km (1,900 miles) long, and much of it is already fenced off. Trump’s plan is to erect a 1,300 miles long, 40-feet-high wall which contains 19 million tons of concrete and could cost in excess of $25 billion. Along with natural barriers, this ‘Great Wall of America’ should keep illegal immigrants and drugs flowing into the country, although we previously reported that over the years as the United States militarized its borders, more and more undocumented immigrants stayed into the country — simply because they got stuck there.  For every million-dollar increase in budget, the odds a migrant would return home to Mexico in any given year dropped by 89 percent.

The FWS’ report is “for informational purposes only and should not be used for official planning purposes”. Outside reports section 7 of the Endangered Species Act clearly stipulates any construction project  “permitted, funded, or licensed by any federal agency” has to be reviewed by the FWS but the Trump Administration has made no such request. 

Trust Resources TrumpWall by Outside on Scribd

Most of these animals are negatively impacted by the wall because it isolates cross-border populations. If a solid, concrete wall is erected, it’s likely inbreeding will increase and genetic diversity will decrease, making species more vulnerable. The few jaguars that roam in Arizona and New Mexico will probably slowly but surely get wiped out from the United States as these become stranded, unable to mate with more numerous populations south of the border. Even the bald eagle or manatees, flying and marine species which at first glance shouldn’t be affected, will be threatened by the wall which encroaches on their critical habitat.

As The Ecologist reports, a 2011 study which assessed bioconservation at the US-Mexico border found barriers significantly impede animal migrations within this ecologically sensitive region. In other words, the fences already in place at the border put more than 50 species at risk. The authors of the study cautioned at the time that “New barriers along the border would increase the number of species at risk, especially in the three identified regions, which should be prioritized for mitigation of the impacts of current barriers.”

All of these reports likely fall on deaf ears, though. There seems to be little to any consideration given to official reports, figures, data, or experts for that matter. Trump’s ‘educated guesses’ as to how much this planned border wall would cost — he’s been quoted as saying around $5 billion when the real cost would be at least five times that, and far more if you account maintenance over the coming decades — is very telling of how much thought goes into the Presidential Administration’s executive orders.

Dengue vaccine approved for use in Mexico, Brazil and Philippines

Scientific American recently reported that the three countries most affected by dengue fever have approved the use of the first vaccine against this affliction. Officials from Mexico, Philippines and Brazil hope that this will curb the nearly 400 million new infections each year, 22,000 of which result in death.

Dengue symptoms include fever (sometimes as high as 105°F/40°C), pain in muscles, bones and joints, headaches, nose and gum bleeds and other similarly pleasant manifestation. The disease is caused by a virus which spreads through mosquito-bites and is closely related to the Zika virus. It emerged as a worldwide problem in the 1950s and up to now, apart from trying to keep the insects at bay, there was not much people could do to avoid infection.

The countries and areas at risk of dengue transmission are shaded in orange, and the geographical extension of dengue is indicated in red. Data are from the World Health Organization, 2007.
Image via nature

Although dengue rarely occurs in the continental United States, it is endemic in many parts of the world. Clocking in at a staggering 400 million new infections per year, an efficient vaccine for dengue could make a huge difference in the livelihood of those living in high-risk areas.

Enter Sanofi. While it’s not 100 percent effective against dengue infection, trials show that it reduces the chances of contracting the virus from infected mosquitoes by 60 percent (in patients over the age of 9.)

But, more importantly, the drug is 95.5 percent effective in treating dengue hemorrhagic fever, a deadly form of the disease that affects an estimated 500,000 people each year. Sanofi has the potential to drastically reduce incidents of DHF, saving countless lives.

Experts project the first Sanofi inoculations in Brazil, the Philippines and Mexico will take place this year, after each country completes negotiations with Sanofi’s parent company. The World Health Organization will examine the vaccine in April before making global recommendations.

Mexico’s soda tax is working, sales drop by 14%

A new study found that Mexico’s soda tax had a positive impact on purchasing habits just one year after implementation. The results show a decrease in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption accompanied by an increase in sales of untaxed drinks throughout the country.

Let’s face it, we all like soda. Undoubtedly the insane quantity of sugar they contain make them the equivalent of catnip for our brains (brainnip? — I’m coining that term). But they’re really bad for your health; they’ve been linked to everything from tooth decay, to diabetes and obesity.

Faced with a so-called “epidemic of obesity,” caused by American soda franchises opening up in Mexico and offering a lot of cheap but unhealthy products, the Mexican government decided to implement a tax of 1 peso per liter (or 10% out of total sales price) for sugar-sweetened beverages. While similar strategies have also been suggested for the U.S. (only implemented in Berkeley, California in March 2015 so far) the fact remains that there’s little research done into how such a tax affects purchasing behaviors over time.

These jellos ironically have less sugar than the soda it’s imitating.
Image via pixabay

One year after the implementation of the tax however, we’re already seeing a positive impact of the tax in the Mexico markets; the authors of the study report that an average of 6% decline in purchases of sugar-sweetened beverages along with an 4% increase in sales of beverages with no added sugar (which remained untaxed) was recorded. The drop in sales increased over time, reaching the peak of 12% drop in December of 2014. These values are relative to projected sales expectations sans-tax.

To reach these numbers, the team mined data on beverage sales in Mexico from January of 2012 (before the tax was implemented) through to December 2014. The data shows that in 2014, the average person bought around four fewer liters of the taxed beverages compared to what they did before the soda-tax went into effect; the most significant decline was recorded among low-income households.

The authors say it’s too early to determine for certain whether the tax is really working; the study is observational and cannot prove causality, and other factors such as health campaigns or economic changes also had an effect on sales.

In a corresponding editorial, Franco Sassi, a senior health economist at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris, writes that

“Taxes can be part of a public health strategy—and Mexico’s is a great example for other countries—but they cannot be viewed as a magic bullet in the fight against obesity,” wrote Franco Sassi, a senior health economist at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris in a corresponding editorial.

The soda-tax did have a positive impact in Mexico; but while taxation makes these beverages less attractive to buyers by increasing price, complementary policies like health education programs are required for a successful anti-obesity campaign.

GeoPicture of the Week: Xico Crater in Mexico

It’s a new year alright, and what better way to start it than with a GeoPicture? This is the Xico volcanic crater in Mexico.

Image via Imgur.

Located in the southern parts of of Mexico City in the municipality of Xico within the Chichinautzin volcanic field. The Chichinautzin volcanic is located in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, relatively close to the area where the Cocos tectonic plate subducts beneath the North American Plate (about 350 km / 220 miles). The filed is formed mostly from small cinder cones and shield volcanoes.

As you can see here, the crater is slowly being engulfed by urban development as more and more houses are being built around it, even at the base of its slopes. Farmers have even climbed the top of the volcano and used the fertile soil to plow fields.

 

mexico cave painting

5,000 amazing cave paintings discovered in Mexico [PHOTOS]

mexico cave painting

Archaeologists in Mexico have discovered a marvelous collection of pre-Hispanic paintings in 11 sites different sites in the caves and mountain gaps of the municipality of Burgos in the state of Tamaulipas, which borders the United States. In all, the researchers have numbered so far 4,926 paintings, however it’s been very difficult for them to date them. It’s believed these were made by local hunter-gatherer people and could be as old as 6,000 years.

The findings were unveiled at the Historic Archaeology meeting held recently in Mexico’s National History Museum. The paintings are colored in hues of red, yellow, black, and white and depict various scenes from the authors’ lives, like fishing, hunting, animals, insects and of course people. Astronomical, religious, as well as abstract scenes were also reported, and remarkably most of the paintings are well preserved. One of the paintings stands out in particular as it depicts an atlatl, a pre-Hispanic hunting weapon.

5,000 cave paintings tucked away in the Mexican mountainside

mexico cave painting

What’s makes the findings even more remarkable is that for years archaeologists and anthropologists believed the Burgos area had never been inhabited by pre-Hispanic cultures, like hunter-gatherers.

“It’s important because with this we were able to document the presence of pre-Hispanic groups in Burgos, where before we said there were none,” said archeologist Martha Garcia Sanchez of the Autonomous University of Zacatecas.

An age of persecution

mexico cave painting

The paintings were made by at least three groups known as the Guajolotes, Iconoplos and Pintos, and around the time the conquistadors’ persecutions were in full, other groups like the Cadimas, Conaynenes, Mediquillos, Mezquites, Cometunas and Canaimes also migrated towards the San Carlos mountain range.

“These groups escaped Spanish control for almost 200 years,” Garcia Sanchez said. “They fled to the San Carlos mountain range where they had water, plants and animals to eat. The Spaniards didn’t go into the mountain and its valleys.”

mexico cave painting

The History blog has some interesting info for a bit more of context:

There are references to indigenous groups who fled the conquering Spaniards and hid out in the San Carlos mountains for 200 years. As late as 1750 there are records of these nomadic peoples making it hard to evangelize Burgos. There are no official names of the tribes. They are referred to by nicknames assigned them based on perceived characteristics like “painted” or “mangy,” clothing or activities like “shoemakers,” or the family names of ranchers by the random assortment of conquistadors, religious men and indigenous peoples who ran into them.

There wasn’t much in the way of congress, therefore. The Spanish avoided following them into the mountains, and since there was a literal bounty on their heads — 25 pesos for every indigenous scalp and 60 pesos for every ransomed “captive” — these groups were destroyed before anything about them was recorded. We know basically nothing about their languages, religious rituals and cultural traditions. This huge cache of art, therefore, is an immensely important anthropological resource.

One of the eleven sites made for a particularly popular cave canvas as no less than 1,550 different scenes have been identified at the location now dubbed as “The Cave of Horses”. How were these paintings rendered, though? Early North Americans used organic dyes and minerals, and there’s no reason to believe the Burgos caves were made otherwise. Still, chemical analysis is currently in the process of precisely establishing the nature of the paintings, as well as their age.

The latter aspect has been extremely aggravating to archaeologists, who are always looking to pinpoint their findings even in the most loosest of time frames. No artifacts were discovered at either of the sites, which means that no dating can be made until the chemical analysis is over.

via io9 / Photos ©AFP PHOTO / INAH

Popocatepetl volcano Mexico

Ash and smoke spewed by Popocatepetl Volcano in Mexico warns of imminent eruption [PHOTOS]

 

Mexico’s second highest peak, the  Popocatepetl Volcano, which means “Smoking Mountain” in the indigenous Nahuatl language, first began rumbling on April 13, when the first signs of ash and steam were sighted spewing from its crater.

 

Right in the surrounding of Mexico City, columns of ash have been shooting from more than 60 openings in the crust of the 5,450m high volcano. Residents at the foot of the volcano no longer sleep soundly in fear of an imminent eruption that might threaten their homes and even their lives. The volcano’s last eruption was in 2000, then thousands of people had to flee their residences.

 

On Tuesday, Mexico’s National Disaster Prevention Centre (Cenapred) raised the alert around the volcano to “yellow stage three”, the third-highest level. Authorities claim that the alert could remain in place for weeks or even months until the volcano’s activity diminishes.

Mexico promises green climate law

Mexico, one of the biggest countries in the world, has followed suit with neighboring California and wants to adopt the green climate law, which already passed the chamber of deputies by an overwhelming 128-10 vote, and is heading towards the Senate with excellent chances.

Having a country like Mexico, with some 120 million people, of which 10 million people live in its capitol alone, adopting a law like this can only bring good things. Here’s what the law says, in general:

The target emissions have to be reduced by 30 percent below business-as-usual emissions by 2020 and by 50 percent below 2000 levels by 2050. Also, incentives will be offered to promote renewable energy by the ministry of Finance and Energy – they want to increase renewable energy 35% by 2024.

Create a high-level climate change commission to oversee national climate policy over sustained Administrations. This alone would set stable climate policy – making Mexico more like Europe, or to put it better, making Mexico even greener than Europe. Also, big companies will have to provide mandatory emissions reporting, and support the development of the domestic emission trading system.

Aside from the obvious environmental benefits, this could also be advantageous for Mexico from a different point of view, making it a focus of clean energy investment, lifting its economy and bolstering its long term energy security in the same way that clean energy investment has done with California’s.

New Butterfly Species Identified in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula

The Nature is a treasure house of wonders. As we go on unlocking its secrets, more remains to be discovered. So is the hunt for finding new butterfly species.

New cryptic species a) Prepona laertesECO01 and b) Prepona laertesECO02, with interim names waiting for full characterization. Dorsal view. Humberto Bahena.

Mexican Scientists, led by Carmen Pozo of El Colegio de la Frontera Sur in Mexico, have claimed to have identified the new species while making a study on the Nymphalidae family of butterflies population in the Yucatan peninsula.

They had reported this in “Beyond the Colours: Discovering Hidden Diversity in the Nymphalidae of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico through DNA Barcoding” in the latest online journal PLoS ONE 6(11): e27776.

“Approximately 570 species of Nymphalidae have been reported in Mexico, and 121 of these occur in the Yucatan peninsula. Using DNA bar-coding, 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,” the journal reported.

The researchers had also noticed four cases where specimen had been misidentified based on the appearance. They had later corrected these erroneous classifications based on the DNA, highlighting the potential utility of this method.

There are about 160,000 known species of butterflies and moths in the world and scientists believe that a similar number still remains undiscovered.

Identification and characterization of these species is a complex process because each species has an immature caterpillar and a mature butterfly form, as well as the reliance on the physical appearance for classification.

The latest DNA-based bar-coding technique came handy to the scientists for easy identification and characterization of the species.

“This investigation has revealed overlooked species in a well-studied museum collection of Nymphalid butterflies and suggests that there is a substantial incidence of cryptic species that await full characterization.

 

The utility of bar-coding in the rapid identification of caterpillars also promises to accelerate the assembly of information on life histories, a particularly important advance for hyper diverse tropical insect assemblages,” the researchers observed.