Extinct Butterflies

Extinction isn’t a strange term to most of us. While extinction is known to be a natural phenomenon, and had happened before without any human intervention, the extinctions that occur in the recent millennia had been mainly human-induced. Dodo and Javan Tigers are some of the well-known example. Even butterflies did not manage to escape this mess. In this post we’re going to take a look at 3 species of the butterflies that you can no longer see fluttering around.

Xerxes Blue (Glaucopsyche xerxes)

First described by Boisduval in 1852, this beautiful butterfly was last seen between 1941 and 1943. The species is particularly found in Sunset District of San Francisco, USA. Thanks to urban development, the destruction of their habitat drove to them to extinction. The exact cause of their extinction is not known, since their food plant still exist. It is considered the first known butterfly to extinct in USA. Xerxes Blue received a lot of attention when they disappeared, but the attention came a little too late.

Xerxes Blue – upperside

Xerxes Blue – underside

Photo by Chris Grinter (http://skepticalmoth.southernfriedscience.com/2010/08/butterfly-porn/)


Mbashe River Buff (Deloneura immacualata)

The species is endemic to Mbashe River of the East Cape, South Africa. Trimen described it in 1868 and apart from that, there is very little information about this species. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species recorded no sighting of this species since 1986’s assessment and therefore considered listed it as extinct.

This is the only photo of the species found on the net, believed to be one of the olderst specimens in the Iziko South African Museum:

Mbashe River Buff – Upperside

Mbashe River Buff – underside

Photos by S. van Noort, Iziko (http://www.biodiversityexplorer.org/butterflies/lycaenidae/deloneura_immaculata.htm)


Morant Blue (Lepidochrysops hypopolia)

Morant’s Blue is the rarest butterfly in South Africa that IUCN Red List has categorized it under the extinct group since there were only 2 encounters of the species. Ever. The first was by Walter Morant in 1870, where he found 2 males and another by Thomas Ayres in 1879. You can read the detailed description on that in http://www.thorntree.co.za/Butterfly.htm. There are unfortunately no photos available of the species. However Morant’s specimens are one in the Natural History Museum, London while Ayres’ specimen is now at the South African Museum.

No one could explain how Morant Blue and Mbashe River Buff became extinct as they are already very rare by the time they caught the attention of entomologists. Just like Xerxes Blue, attentions came a little bit too late.  Its a little too late to study them, understand them and save them.

Some scientists are still hopeful that these species still exist, somewhere. Nevertheless, the loss of these beautiful creatures is simply tragic. All we have left now is the preserved specimens, that would age, and sooner or later gone forever. All we have left for our children are photos and illustrations. Let this be the lesson for us to start to care more for our environment. Think about what how we utilize resources. Replenish what we’ve claimed. We’ve claimed their homes, now its time for us to rebuild them.

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” ~Native American Proverb


Posted in Butterflies, Mother Nature