Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Smokies Announces Early Results of Moth
and Butterfly "Bioblitz"
Contributed by: Bob Miller
[July 27, 2000]
The preliminary results of the Park's first-ever moth and butterfly inventory
have been completed and the initial results are impressive. Over 20 professional
and amateur lepidopterists from across North America came to the Park as part
of the All Taxa-Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI), to search and identify every
species of plant and animal life in the 800 square mile national park.
Moth Blitz Facts Sheet:
- The twenty professional and amateur entomologists assembled in the Park
for a 24-hour nature quest that began at 3:00 PM on Tuesday the 26th.
- By they end of the 24 hours a total of 706 species had been identified
with numerous specimens yet to be determined. Once all these un-identified
specimens can be more carefully researched through the literature, dissected,
and compared to museum specimen collections this 706 species total is expected
to climb. In addition, 30 to 40 caterpillars of yet-to-be-identified species
were collected by volunteers, and some of these may metamorphose into species
that were not seen by the team on the day of their quest.
- Of the 706 species, 301 species were previously unknown in the Park.
- 25 species new to science (never been given a Latin name) and one new
genus to science were found.
Go to Species List
The scientists themselves were amazed by the high total. Prior to the count,
each participant was asked how many species they expected to find during the
blitz: their estimates ranged from 350 to 600. The 706 one-day total shattered
the previous North American record of 507 butterflies and moths recorded by
Richard Brown and students on Mississippi's Black Belt Prairie. The results
underscored the fact that the Smokies are hyperdiversethere are few
places in North American where one could hope to see as many plant and animal
species in a single day.
- Scientists rediscovered a ghost moth on Clingman's Dome that occurs at
only two other sites in the world. Ghost moths are ancient creatures whose
ancestry traces back to the time of dinosaurs. The group felt that this
species was one of their most significant finds.
- Voucher specimens from the count will be deposited at the Park, Smithsonian
Institution, and Field Museum where they will be available to the public
- Moth specimens not required for current scientific purposes have been
frozen for use in the park's environmental education programs. Students
will be introduced to the natural biodiversity of the park and region by
identifying these common moths using pictorial field guides.
- After the count, there was considerable discussion about what the total
species diversity in the Smokies was likely to be. Most participants agreed
that the total was likely to be in the vicinity of 3,500 butterfly and moth
* For more information contact Bob Miller or Florie Takaki
at (865) 436-1207
- Institutional Affiliations of Principal Team Volunteers:
- James Adams - Dalton State University
- John Brown - Systematic Entomology Lab, United States Department of
- Donald R. Davis - Smithsonian Institution
- Marc Epstein - Smithsonian Institution
- Paul Goldstein - Field Museum
- John Himmelman - author and amateur lepidopterist
- Keith Langdon - Great Smoky Mountain National Park
- Buck Lewis - Systematic Entomology Lab, United States Department of
- Eric Metzler - Ohio Lepidopterists' Society
- Becky Nichols - Great Smoky Mountain National Park
- Michael Pogue - Systematic Entomology Lab, United States Department
- Jerry Powell - University of California, Berkeley
- Brian Scholtens - College of Charleston
- Dale Schweitzer - The Nature Conservancy
- Bo Sullivan - amateur lepidopterist
- Paul Super - Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont
- Mike Thomas - Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
- David L. Wagner - University of Connecticut
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