Australian study: 26 butterflies at great risk of extinction

Scientists have identified 26 Australian butterfly species and subspecies at greatest risk of extinction within 20 years, media reported on May 4.

Topping the list is the Australian fritillary with a 94 percent likelihood of extinction, followed by the "pale imperial hairstreak," with a 42 percent chance of extinction.

Trevor Lambkin, one of the authors of the new study, Butterflies on the Brink, published in Austral Entomology recently, said concerns were increasing that the Australian fritillary species had already been wiped out.

"I like to be optimistic, but every year that goes past without anything showing makes us a little bit more concerned every year," Lambkin said.

The Australian fritillary is a striking black and orange butterfly with a delicate lacework of olive and pink on the undersides of its wings. It was once widespread in swampy areas of the coastal state of Queensland and New South Wales.

The fritillary is one of those butterflies with specific diets, which makes it vulnerable to environmental changes, such as vegetation clearing, weed invasions and fires. It has not been seen since one was spotted flying near Port Macquarie in NSW in 2015.

"Their habitat has been disrupted incredibly," Lambkin said.

Scientists hope identifying the 26 butterflies will lead to conservation action. Only six of the butterflies identified are currently listed for protection under Australian law.

Associate Professor Michael Braby, an entomologist from the Australian National University, said most of the species identified as being at risk had little or no management occurring to conserve them, Sydney Morning Herald reported.

"It is vital that we value and conserve Australia's invertebrate biodiversity – our ecosystems and ultimately our survival may depend on it," Braby said.

(Cover: A morpho butterfly in Australia. /CFP)

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Source(s): Xinhua News Agency

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