Guantanamo Bay’s butterflies and moths


Along with the sad news from dictatorially ruled Bahrain, there is sometimes good news. Eg, about birds.

Likewise, in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, there is often torture or other sad news.

This specimen of the lime swallowtail, an invasive species that is a threat to citrus plants, was collected at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in January 2012. CREDIT: Florida Museum of Natural History

This time, somewhat better news. From the University of Florida in the USA:

UF Guantanamo Bay Lepidoptera study sets baseline for future research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — 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.”

See also here.

A federal judge has ordered the US government to stop trying to restrict lawyers’ access to detainees at Guantanamo Bay: here.

John Knefel, AlterNet in the USA: “Adnan Latif was found dead in his cell on September 10th, 2012, just a day before the eleventh anniversary of 9/11…. He suffered at the hands of the US government in ways that most people can’t begin to comprehend, and his death should be a reminder that the national shame that is Guantanamo Bay lives on and now enjoys bipartisan support”: here.

French citizen Ahmed Hadjarab has filed a criminal complaint with his government over his nephew Nabil’s continuing imprisonment and torture in Guantanamo Bay: here.

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One thought on “Guantanamo Bay’s butterflies and moths

  1. Pingback: Caribbean butterflies, new research | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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