Study advances ‘DNA revolution,’ tells butterflies’ evolutionary history

 

After Big Bang

By tracing nearly 3,000 genes to the earliest common ancestor of butterflies and moths, scientists have created an extensive “Tree of Lepidoptera” in the first study to use large-scale, next-generation DNA sequencing.

Butterflies. Credit: © andrey7777777 Butterflies.
Credit: © andrey7777777

Among the study’s more surprising findings: Butterflies are more closely related to small moths than to large ones, which completely changes scientists’ understanding of how butterflies evolved. The study also found that some insects once classified as moths are actually butterflies, increasing the number of butterfly species higher than previously thought.

“This project advances biodiversity research by providing an evolutionary foundation for a very diverse group of insects, with nearly 160,000 described species,” said Akito Kawahara, lead author and assistant curator of Lepidoptera at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. “With a tree, we can now understand how the majority of butterfly and moth species evolved.”

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Dorset jewel adds to the National Trust’s hillfort crown

 

Bees 1: Syngenta 0

The Forgotten Endangered Animals

 

London Tree and Woodland Survey 2014

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The RELEAF London Partnership will undertake a new survey of London’s trees and woodlands this summer to establish the benefits they provide and put a value on them.

It will be the world’s largest urban forest survey and 200 volunteers are needed to take part. You will be out in the field for about four days, helping to protect the Capital’s woodlands for future generations by looking at and measuring tress across Greater London.

The volunteers will receive training in the use of the US Forest Service’s i-tree methodology and be accredited as an i-Tree Eco London 2014 surveyor. If you’d like to take part, contact Jim Smith at the Forestry Commission at jim.c.smith@forestry.gsi.gov.uk

Wildlife Artist of the Year opens in London

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Elephant in the River by Radka Kirby, part of Wildlife Artist of The Year exhibition.

The David Shepherd Foundation’s Wildlife Artist of the Year opens at Mall Galleries on Tuesday, 3 June.

Shortlisted works will be available to view and buy at the galleries from 3-7 June, exhibited alongside work by David Shepherd and selected guest artists. All sales go towards raising funds and awareness for endangered wildlife.

The David Shepherd Foundation works on a small number of carefully selected wildlife projects in Africa. See last year’s winning artworks here.

New survey aims to halt decline in rare bird

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A national survey to assess the population of one of the UK’s rarest birds, the chough, is being launched by conservationists.

The study aims to give a picture of how the birds are faring across the UK after years of decline. In Scotland, choughs are only found in a small area of the south-west, with 90% concentrated on Islay, where numbers have struggled.

A team of surveyors has now begun work to chart the fortunes of the “acrobatic” birds, known for their striking red bill and legs and flamboyant flying style.

Researchers are particularly concerned about the survival rates of young birds in their first year. It is thought that variations in weather and food abundance could be having an impact on the survival rates. Information gathered will help target conservation efforts for the recovery of the species in areas where it is in decline.

The survey is a joint initiative between RSPB, SNH and the Scottish Chough Study Group, which has been monitoring the birds on Islay since the early 1980s.