Butterfly Thought To Be Locally Extinct Rediscovered In Scotland—And It's Not The First Time We've Been Wrong


A butterfly once thought to be extinct in Scotland’s Ochil Hills due to habitat loss was rediscovered this week, when a Northern Brown Argus was found to be breeding in the garden of a volunteer for charity group Butterfly Conservation, adding the “once-in-a-lifetime” rediscovery of a species thought to be lost to a list of animals that have resurfaced in recent decades.

Key Facts

The Northern Brown Argus hadn’t been seen in the area for 100 years, and staff from U.K.-based Butterfly Conservation have said they’re committed to protecting the species and “helping it to thrive,” the latest push to protect re-found species previously believed to have disappeared from the Earth.

There hadn’t been a sighting of an Australian night parrot for nearly 140 years before a naturalist found evidence of the bird in the outback in 2013, a revelation hailed as “one of the greatest stories of species rediscovery in recent times”—since then, several groups of the nocturnal bird have been found with the help of Aboriginal groups, the New York Times reported, and there are now 14 known night parrot populations in Western Australia.

The New Guinea singing dog hadn’t been seen outside of captivity since the 1970s before a 2016 expedition located and studied 15 of the wild dogs in their natural habitat of Papua New Guinea, CNN reported—researchers previously believed the dog to be extinct in the wild due to loss of habitat and over breeding with local village dogs.

The pygmy tarsier monkey was believed to have been extinct since the early 20th century, before a successful expedition to find one in 2008, according to Scientific American, when a scientist from Texas A&M University traveled to Indonesia and became the first person in more than 80 years to spot the tiny primate—her team captured two more over the next two months and equipped them with radio collars to track their movements.

A female from a Galápagos tortoise species believed extinct for more than a century was found alive in 2019 on Fernandina Island and scientists sequenced her complete genome to prove she was of the rare species—she is believed to be more than 50 years old and droppings of at least 2 or 3 other tortoises have been found since, according to Princeton University.

A Jackson’s climbing salamander was seen for the first time in 42 years in Guatemala’s Cuchumatanes Mountains in 2017 by a university herpetologist who’d gone on 30 expeditions in search of the reptile—before its rediscovery, the salamander was among the 25 most wanted species searched for by Global Wildlife Conservation, National Geographic reported.

Key Background

A report published by the United Nations in 2019 said more animal and plant species than ever before in human history are now threatened with extinction. Native species in most major land habitats have fallen by at least 20% since 1900, the report said, with more than one-third of amphibians, reef-forming corals and marine mammals threatened. Nearly 700 vertebrate species have gone extinct since the 16th century. Scientists said human-driven changes in land and marine environments can be largely blamed for the extinctions, including climate change, the harvesting of fish stocks, use of land and water for crop or livestock production and pollution—plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980, the report said. The UN found around 1 million of the 8 million animal and plant species on Earth are currently threatened with extinction, many of which could die out within decades.

Big Number

75%. That’s the percentage of land environments that have been “severely altered” to date by human actions, the UN report found. The same is true for 66% of marine environments.

Further Reading

African Painted Dogs Could Be Cooked Into Extinction By Climate Change (Forbes)

Emperor Penguins Could Go Extinct By 2100 Due To Climate Change, Study Says (Forbes)

Newly Discovered Colombian Orchids Might Be On The Edge Of Extinction (Forbes)

Reef Sharks Face Heightened Extinction Risk (Forbes)

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