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Climate Change Threatens the Monarch Butterflies’ Survival

Humans have to realisee that maltreatment on the environment affects every species on the planet. Endangering one, endangers them all.

Humans have to realisee that maltreatment on the environment affects every species on the planet. Endangering one, endangers them all.

Monarch butterflies are the first thing people imagine when picturing a butterfly. The number of monarch butterflies is dwindling rapidly. According to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, “a decline of approximately 80 [percent]has been seen in central Mexico and a decline of approximately 99 [percent] has been seen in coastal California.”

The population of butterflies went from hundreds of millions to a few thousand in the last 20 years. This threatens to destroy the balance in the ecosystem as these butterflies pollinate numerous flowers around the world and act as food to several small animals.

The cause of the demise of the monarch butterflies is climate change, urbanization and their effects on the environment monarch butterflies depend on for survival. 

Urbanization has destroyed the majority of the milkweed plants that monarch butterflies lay their eggs on. Urbanization has taken over areas where this plant typically grows, posing a threat to the butterflies as it limits their reproductive capabilities. 

Urbanization has also limited the butterflies’ migration routes. This is especially true in Mexico, an increase in deforestation and development has limited available migration locations for the butterflies during the winter.

Climate change is also affecting the habitats of these animals. According to National Geographic, in addition to urbanization reducing the availability of milkweeds, the increased levels of carbon dioxide are making the plants too toxic for monarch consumption.

Additionally the rising temperatures caused as a result are also affecting the migration patterns of monarch butterflies. As the temperatures increase, the monarchs have to fly farther North during the summer months  otherwise they would molt and inevitably die.

Thus far, the conservation of National Parks has been a saving grace for these butterflies. These parks ensure the butterflies will have a habitat. Conservationists have tagged the monarchs spotted in these parks to allow further studies of the migration patterns. Monarchs have been tagged from a variety of national parks in a variety of parks to collect as much information as possible.

A primary agent in the monarch butterfly conservation movement has been Wildlife Without Borders, a grant program from Mexico which works to protect and replenish the habitats of the monarch butterflies. This program has existed since the mid-1990s, when the numbers of the monarch butterflies began to decline.

This was not Mexico’s first attempt to preserve the existence of monarch butterflies. In 1986, Mexicocreated the Mariposa Monarca, or in English the Monarch Butterfly, Biosphere Reserve. This protects forest land within four distinct butterfly sanctuaries.There are several agencies in Mexico and the U.S that contribute to the conservation effort, despite the public’s lack of knowledge on the subject.

Despite the drastic decrease in the monarch population, the butterflies are not officially listed on the endangered species list. Currently they do have the protection of the Endangered Species Act. This is the temporary status given to the butterflies, a permanent decision will be made by the end of the year.

The programs and agencies cannot save the butterflies on their own, the public needs to be aware that the environmental decisions of humanity, affect the the other animals in the ecosystem. Human perseverance should not be at the expense of the defenseless.

About the Writer
Photo of Angelique Robinson
Angelique Robinson, Web Editor

Angelique Robinson is a senior at Durant and is Web Editor for the PawPrint newspaper. She loves writing creative pieces, as well as more serious articles...

Researchers use ancient DNA to examine life during the Stone Age

An artist created an interpretation of what

Tom Björklund

An artist created an interpretation of what “Lola” may have looked like.

In recent weeks, researchers were able to design a face to match the human DNA found in a 5,700-year-old piece of “gum”.

“Lola”, researchers call her, was an ancient human-gatherer that lived on a small island in the Baltic Sea around 3,700 B.C. Using the DNA found in a small piece of tar, researchers were able to construct a picture of what this human may have looked like. Because their findings are based solely off what her DNA provides, researchers cannot confirm some specific pieces of information, such as how, when, or why she died. However, the DNA of the girl provides majority of her biological footprint; therefore, this discovery is groundbreaking, and provides an abundance of new information as to what human life may have been like during the Stone Age. In this case, Lola’s DNA was found in blobs of birch pitch (tar) after human teeth-marks had been discovered on the ancient “gum”.

While the birch pitch is not the same gum in today’s world, excavated artifacts show that ancient hunters and gatherers put together spears or arrows by heating the birch and using it to hold together stone blades and handles. “Due to the antiseptic nature of birch bark, it may have also had medicinal properties,” (National Geographic).

Like several popular ancestry-tracing companies, DNA found in saliva provides an array of information about a person and their genome. From the specimen, researchers used her DNA to utilize her oral microbiome, and determine some characteristics of her health, including her diet and some of her physical features. Her DNA suggests the ancient European girl had a diet that consisted of ducks and hazelnuts, and that she was likely to have physical characteristics that resembled many of that time, such as blue eyes and dark skin.

The girl’s DNA also provides insight that she may have been lactose-intolerant, and possibly suffered from gum disease. From National Geographic: “Her genome also reveals that she was lactose intolerant, which supports the theory that European populations developed the ability to digest lactose as they began to consume milk product from domesticated animals.”

While these artifacts had been long discovered, never had they been used to provide information about a specific person. “Non-human material” has never been used to construct the face of an ancient person, so this discovery is particularly remarkable, and suggests that this method of research can be used to visualize other ancient specimens.

“This is the first time we have the complete ancient human genome from anything other than [human] bone, and that in itself is quite remarkable,” says Hannes Schroeder, an associate professor of evolutionary genomics at the University of Copenhagen’s Globe Institute and a co-author of the study published in Nature Communications.

“They would look at this crummy little piece of fiber, and I would say the museum has curated this for over a hundred years. And nobody could figure out why we had bothered to save this little thing. Then I’d say we got human DNA out of it, and their eyes would just go wow”, says archaeologist Steven LeBlanc, former director of collections at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.

About the Writer
Photo of Meghan Dulay
Meghan Dulay, Editor-in-Chief of Design

Meghan Dulay is a senior at Durant High School and she is Editor-in-Chief of Design for the PawPrint newspaper. Meghan is part of many other clubs at Durant,...

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