Sioux Falls Zoologists

"Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent!"

The mirror test is an experiment developed in 1970 by psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. to determine whether an animal possesses the ability to recognize itself in a mirror. It is the primary indicator of self-awareness in non-human animals and marks entrance to the mirror stage by human children in developmental psychology. Animals that pass mirror test are: Humans older than 18 mo, Chimpanzees, Bonobos, Orangutans, Gorillas, Bottlenose Dolphins, Orcas (Killer Whales), Elephants, and European Magpies. Others showing signs of self-awareness are Pigs, some Gibbons, Rhesus Macaques, Capuchin Monkeys, some Corvids (Crows & Ravens) and Pigeons w/training. (Sorry Kitty!)

Sioux Falls Zoologists endorse Flight of the Butterflies for
showing how one man discovered the incredible
migration cycle of the Monark butterflies.

Flight of the Butterflies

Flight of the Butterflies (2016) - 44 minutes
Flight of the Butterflies at

Experience the most incredible migration on Earth… and one man's search to unravel its mysteries.

It's a natural history epic. It's a compelling detective story. It's an adventure.

Experience one of the most incredible natural phenomena on earth - the migration of hundreds of millions of Monarch butterflies - and the remarkable story of a determined scientist and his wife who spent decades unraveling the mystery of where the butterflies disappeared to each Fall. Flight of the Butterflies will immerse you in a world of wonder and inspire you with its story of both animal and human perseverance.

5-8-22 The return of California's butterflies
Some of California's iconic butterflies, including the monarch, have been on the verge of extinction. But the efforts of conservationists to protect them may now be showing positive results. Find out more on the People Fixing the World podcast.

2-8-21 Decline of butterfly collecting hobby threatens conservation research
The decline of butterfly collecting as a hobby is making conservation research more difficult for entomologists, according to an analysis of 1.4 million specimens held in US museum collections dating from the 1800s. Although butterfly collecting is often seen as a pastime of Victorian-era gentlemen, Erica Fischer at King’s College London and their colleagues actually found that the largest growth in specimens occurred between 1945 and 1960, showing an 82 per cent increase. This may have been driven by college-educated veterans who received free tuition after the second world war, the researchers say. The number of specimens collected in the US then faltered in the 1960s, and plunged after 1990, the team found. Fischer says that instead of collecting physical specimens, amateurs these days are more likely to gather observational data, particularly photos posted to online databases. While useful, photos don’t let researchers analyse DNA, chemical ratios, internal organs or the pollen found clinging to specimens, says Fischer. For example, Heidi MacLean at Aarhus University in Denmark and her colleagues, in a study published in 2018, examined physical specimens of the Mead’s sulphur butterfly (Colias meadii) collected over the course of 60 years at Loveland Pass, Colorado, to see how they adapted to climate change by changing colour. “We couldn’t have done it without the actual specimens,” says MacLean. “Even though we used image analysis, the lighting and the background had to be the same for every specimen.” Fischer is now studying collections of butterflies and moths in UK museums to see if the same decline holds true and the cultural forces behind the change. “Is it that science has moved away from collections? Is it the professionalisation of science?” says Fischer.

2-10-20 How thin, delicate butterfly wings keep from overheating
Living parts such as veins have protective structures that keep them cooler than dead scales. Delicate butterfly wings are pretty cool — literally, thanks to special structures that protect them from overheating in the sun. New thermal images of butterflies show that living parts of the wing — including veins transporting insect blood, or hemolymph, and scent patches or pads that males use to release pheromones — release more heat than surrounding dead scales, keeping the living areas cooler. Small changes in body temperature can affect a butterfly’s ability to fly, as muscles in the thorax must be warm so that the insect can flap its wings fast enough for takeoff. But because the wings are so thin, they heat up faster than the thorax and can rapidly overheat. People might think that scale-covered butterfly wings are “like a fingernail, or a feather of a bird, or human hair — they are lifeless,” says Nanfang Yu, an applied physicist at Columbia University (SN: 5/23/08). But wings are also equipped with living tissues crucial for survival and flight, and high temperatures will make the insect “really feel uncomfortable.” Butterfly wings’ thin, semitransparent nature has made it difficult for thermal infrared cameras to distinguish heat from the wing versus from background sources. So Yu and colleagues employed an infrared hyperspectral imaging technique to measure wing temperature and heat emissivity at single-scale resolution for more than 50 butterfly species. Tube-shaped nanostructures and a thicker layer of chitin, a component of an insect’s exoskeleton, radiate excess heat from living wing tissue, the researchers report January 28 in Nature Communications. Wing veins are covered with that thicker chitin layer, and scent pads have those nanostructures, plus the extra chitin. Thicker or hollow materials are better at radiating heat than thin, solid materials, Yu says.

2-7-20 Butterfly activists killed
Two defenders of a Mexican forest where monarch butterflies spend the winter have been found murdered in recent weeks, and activists fear that powerful logging interests may be to blame. Homero Gómez González, manager of the El Rosario butterfly sanctuary, went missing in mid-January; his body was found in a well last week. An autopsy showed he’d suffered head trauma and drowning. Gómez had long lobbied for an end to logging, saying that butterfly tourism would be more lucrative for the community and more environmentally sound. Just days after the first grim discovery, the body of sanctuary guide Raúl Hernández Romero was found; he had an apparent knife wound to the head.

2-3-20 Second Mexico monarch butterfly activist found dead
A second activist campaigning for the conservation of monarch butterflies and the woods in which they hibernate has been found dead in Mexico. Raúl Hernández worked as a tour guide at a butterfly sanctuary in Michoacán state. His body, which bore signs of beatings and a head injury, was found two days after the funeral of Homero Gómez. Mr Gómez managed a monarch butterfly sanctuary in the same state and had received threats, his family said. Raúl Hernández, 44, disappeared on Monday 27 January. He had left work as usual and was last seen at midday in a village called El Oyamel. His body was found six days later at the top of a hill in the El Campanario monarch butterfly sanctuary. Forensic experts said his body was covered in bruises and he had a deep wound to his head. An investigation into his death is under way. Conservationists fear his death may be linked to that of Homero Gómez, who disappeared in the same area on 13 January. Mr Gómez's body was found in a well on 29 January. His family said that prior to his disappearance, the activist had received threats warning him to stop his campaign against illegal logging. He was a tireless campaigner for the conservation of the monarch butterfly and the pine and fir forests where it hibernates. The sanctuary he managed opened in November as part of a strategy to stop illegal logging in the area, which is a key habitat for the species. Officials initially said his body showed no signs of violence, but a post mortem examination revealed he had suffered a blow to the head before drowning in the well. Mexico's murder rate has risen in recent years and official figures suggest 2019 had the highest rate ever recorded, with 34,582 recorded killings. (Webmaster's comment: There were 1/2 that many in the United States.)

2-8-19 Monarch butterflies dying out
The western monarch butterfly may be heading for extinction, reports In the 1980s, up to 10 million of these beautiful insects would overwinter in California each year, having migrated from inland areas of the western U.S. But a mere 30,000 monarchs were counted in California last year. That’s an 86 percent drop from 2017, and below the number scientists think is necessary to sustain the population. Conservationists believe the main causes of the decline are droughts brought on by climate change, and habitat destruction—the acreage of milkweed, a food source and the only plant the insects lay their eggs on, has been shrinking. The nonprofit Xerces Society, which carries out an annual Thanksgiving monarch count, notes that the drop-off has come despite extensive conservation efforts by environmental groups and state and federal agencies. “If we want to have monarchs migrate through the western U.S., as they have for centuries, sustained work is needed,” the organization said in a statement. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will likely announce in June whether the monarchs should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

3-6-18 Monarch butterfly numbers down for second year in Mexico
The population of monarch butterflies in Mexico has gone down for the second consecutive year, government officials say. In the autumn, the orange and black butterflies migrate from Canada and the US to central Mexico, where they hibernate in pine and fir trees. Every year, scientists measure the area in which the monarchs cluster. Mexico's Commissioner for Protected Areas Alejandro del Mazo said numbers had diminished by 14.8% this winter. Speaking at a news conference in Mexico City, officials said nine colonies of monarch butterflies had been recorded in Mexico in the 2017/2018 winter months, down from 13 last year. Mr del Mazo said that "extreme meteorological events" could be a leading cause in the decline of the numbers of Monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico. World Wildlife Fund's Mexico Director Jorge Rickards said a particularly busy hurricane season across the insects' migration route, which stretches almost 5,000km (3,100 miles) from Canada to Mexico, could be a factor. "These climate phenomena without a doubt have an impact on the migration," he said. Monarchs are one of the few insects to migrate such a vast distance and scientists recently found that they use a kind of internal solar compass to guide them. While the area in which the monarch butterflies hibernate in central Mexico went up in the winter of 2015/16, the overall trend for the past two decades has been a downward one. In 1996/97 the butterflies could be found in about 18 hectares of forest in the states of Mexico and Michoacán. This past winter, only 2.48 hectares had monarch colonies.

1-11-18 Meet the butterflies from 200 million years ago
Newly discovered fossils show that moths and butterflies have been on the planet for at least 200 million years. Scientists found fossilised butterfly scales the size of a speck of dust inside ancient rock from Germany. The find pushes back the date for the origins of the Lepidoptera, one of the most prized and studied insect groups. Researchers say they can learn more about the conservation of butterflies and moths by studying their early evolution. They used acid to dissolve ancient rocks, leaving behind small fragments, including "perfectly preserved" scales that covered the wings of early moths and butterflies. "We found the microscopic remains of these organisms in the form of these scales," said Dr Bas van de Schootbrugge from Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Intriguingly, they show that some of the moths and butterflies belonged to a group still alive today that have long straw-like tongues for sucking up nectar. "These finds push back the evolution of this group with proboscises - with a tongue - by about 70 million years," said Dr van de Schootbrugge. "Our finds show that the group that was supposed to co-evolve with flowers is actually much older." The Jurassic was a world dominated by gymnosperm plants, such as conifers, which produced sugary nectar to capture pollen from the air. The primitive insects may have fed on this nectar, before flowering plants came along around 130 million years ago.

10-6-17 Butterfly swarm shows up on Denver radar system
Butterfly swarm shows up on Denver radar system
A colourful, shimmering spectacle detected by weather radar over the US state of Colorado has been identified as swarms of migrating butterflies. Scientists at the National Weather Service (NWS) first mistook the orange radar blob for birds and had asked the public to help identifying the species. They later established that the 70-mile wide (110km) mass was a kaleidoscope of Painted Lady butterflies. Forecasters say it is uncommon for flying insects to be detected by radar. "We hadn't seen a signature like that in a while," said NWS meteorologist Paul Schlatter, who first spotted the radar blip. "We detect migrating birds all the time, but they were flying north to south," he told CBS News, explaining that this direction of travel would be unusual for migratory birds for the time of year.

10-12-16 Painted lady butterflies’ migration may take them across the Sahara
Painted lady butterflies’ migration may take them across the Sahara
Painted lady butterflies are found all over the world. New evidence shows that some may make an epic migration — across the Mediterranean and Sahara. Butterflies look so delicate as they flitter from flower to flower. And yet, they are capable of migrating incredibly long distances. The monarch, for example, migrates between Canada and Mexico, covering distances of up to 4,800 kilometers, riding a combination of columns of rising air, called thermals, and air currents to travel around 80 to 160 kilometers per day. No single monarch makes this entire journey, though. The round trip is done by a succession of as many as five generations of butterflies. But now scientists have found that there’s a species of butterfly that may rival the monarch’s migratory record — the painted lady (Vanessa cardui).

Flight of the Butterflies

Sioux Falls Zoologists endorse Flight of the Butterflies for
showing how one man discovered the incredible
migration cycle of the Monark butterflies.