Evaluating the impact of non-lethal DNA sampling on two butterflies, Vanessa cardui and Satyrodes eurydice
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Genetic sampling of endangered species can inform conservation management and potentially aid the long-term survival of a species. However, when dealing with very small populations of rare species, the sacrifice of whole animals may not be desirable or permitted. We set out to develop a demonstrably non-lethal method of obtaining DNA from the federally-endangered Mitchell’s satyr butterfly, Neonympha mitchellii mitchellii. Because of its endangered status we developed our methods on related species. In greenhouse and fields trials, we demonstrate that removal of small amounts of hind wing (2–3 mm2) has no significant impact on the behavior or survival of Vanessa cardui and Satyrodes eurydice. Based on these studies we were successful in obtaining a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to sample DNA from N. m. mitchellii populations. We suggest that our results can be extended to the sampling of other rare butterfly species.
KeywordsNon-lethal sampling Survivability Mark-recapture Lepidoptera Conservation
The authors wish to thank members of the Mitchell’s Satyr Recovery Working Group and Carrie Tansey of the USFWS for early discussions that shaped this research. We also thank Jessica Albright, Douglas Badgero, Alissa Berro, Jordan Shelley and Grace O’Connor of Michigan State University, and two anonymous reviewers. Many of the techniques and analyses in this paper were developed using tools learned in the ELME (Enhancing Linkages between Math and Ecology) course at the WK Kellogg Biological Station. This research was partially funded by a Plant Sciences Fellowship to CAH.
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