Scientists Reveal the Most Comprehensive Map of Butterfly Evolution Ever—and It's Gorgeous

Espeland et al., Current Biology (2018)
Espeland et al., Current Biology (2018)

There are 18,000 known butterfly species in the world, so maybe it’s not surprising that scientists haven’t quite worked out how they’re all related. Recently, scientists developed what is currently the most comprehensive roadmap of butterfly evolution ever, one that includes 35 times more genetic data and three times as many classifications as past butterfly evolutionary trees. Oh, and as Fast Company found, it’s beautiful.

The study, published in Current Biology, drew on genetic data from 207 butterfly species that together represent 98 percent of butterfly tribes (the classification just above genus). Led by Florida Museum of Natural History curator Akito Kawahara and Marianne Espeland of the Alexander Koenig Research Museum in Germany, the study used this genetic data and the fossil record to trace the evolution of different butterfly species and figure out when different species split off from their cousins.

A circular visualization of the butterfly family tree
Espeland et al., Current Biology (2018)

Needless to say, millions years of evolution means a lot of information to visualize in one family tree. Each bold label on the very outside of the circle represents a tribe, like Tagiadini, followed by the individual species that made it into the study, like Tagiades flesus (the clouded skipper). Species are clumped together by subgroup—in this case, Pyrginae (spread-winged skippers)—and color-coordinated by family—in this case, Hesperiidae (skippers).

The solid gray circle near the center, labeled K-PG boundary (for Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary) represents the mass extinction event that killed off most of Earth’s plant and animal species, including the dinosaurs.

A close-up of a circular visualization of the butterfly family tree
Espeland et al., Current Biology (2018)

The study confirms several pieces of information that butterfly experts had hypothesized about in previous studies, while overturning other hypotheses. Butterflies can be divided into seven different families, and though previous research estimated that the first butterflies appeared around 100 million years ago, this study pushes that date back to around 120 million years ago. But there were just a few early ancestors of butterflies prior to the mass extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs, after which the butterfly family tree explodes into different branches.

Swallowtail butterflies (the subfamily Papilioninae, to the left in blue) were the first butterfly family to branch off, so they’re a “sister” species to all other butterfly species. Skippers (the family Hesperiidae, in purple) likely branched off next, then nocturnal butterflies like the Hedylidae family (in gray). However, some species that scientists previously thought were sister groups do not, in fact, share common ancestry, including swallowtails, birdwings, zebra swallowtails, and swordtails. The timeline shows that some butterfly species seem to have evolved together along with the plants they feed on or, in some cases, ant species with which they now have a mutually beneficial relationship.

[h/t Fast Company]

The 8 Most Expensive Dog Breeds in the World

iStock/ClarkandCompany
iStock/ClarkandCompany

Big dogs, little dogs. Fuzzy, hairless. Tiny ears, floppy ears. Shelter dogs, fancy dogs. We love them all (especially shelter dogs). While Americans shell out an average of about $1675 per year on their dogs, purebred-loving pet parents are willing to pay more than five times that just to acquire the breed they've always dreamed of. Here are eight of the most expensive dog breeds in the world, according to The Dog Digest.

1. LÖWCHEN

Nancy, a 18-month-old Lowchen or Little Lion Dog bitch, poses for a photograph on the second day of Crufts Dog Show at the NEC Arena on March 10, 2017 in Birmingham, England.
Matt Cardy, Getty Images

​Löwchens are a petite, long-haired dog that have been a popular breed since the Renaissance, and are even featured prominently in paintings from that period. Nowadays, these "little lions" are extremely rare, pushing their cost to as much as $10,000 in some places around the world.

2. SAMOYED

A Samoyed sits in a flower-filled field
iStock/bruev

This breed's name comes from the Samoyedic peoples of Siberia, who used these fluffy white dogs to herd reindeer and pull sleds for their nomadic groups. The competitive, strong dogs can cost from $8000 to $10,000.

3. TIBETAN MASTIFF

Beautiful Tibetan mastiff on the background of the winter landscape of nature
iStock/~User7565abab_575

The Tibetan Mastiff originated with the ancient nomadic cultures of China, Nepal, and Tibet. Tribes of Himachal Pradesh used this breed as a guard to protect sheep from predators, making them a very protective breed for any owner. The massive dogs can weigh up to 160 pounds and be as tall as 33 inches. The price for this breed is equally as massive, reaching up to $7000.

4. PHARAOH HOUND

Pharaoh hound with a leather collar lying down on a snow in winter
iStock/Eudyptula

The Pharaoh Hound is a Maltese breed whose native name, Kelb tal-Fenek, means "rabbit dog," because they were traditionally used for hunting rabbits. These dogs are highly intelligent as well as athletic. Some bloodlines of this breed can cost owners $6500. We hope the rabbits are worth it!

5. AKITA

Akita dog in grass
iStock/baiajaku

The Akita breed originated from the mountainous regions of northern Japan. An Akita can be categorized as either a Japanese or an American Akita, but all come with a short double-coat similar to that of a Siberian Husky. Certain breeds of the Akita can be priced as high as $4500.

6. AZAWAKH

Azawakh on a white background
iStock/fotojagodka

The West African Azawakh is one of the few breeds of African breeds that is available for purchase in the United States and Canada. This lively dog requires lots of physical activity and moves with a distinct feline gait. They can be identified by their almond eyes, thin bodies, and sandy color. These exotic pooches can be priced from $3000 and up.

7. PERUVIAN INCA ORCHID

Photo of a Peruvian hairless dog
iStock/manx_in_the_world

This pup is a hairless dog with origins in Peruvian pre-Inca cultures. As they're completely hairless with elephant grey skin, the dogs are quite unique in appearance. This breed is priced up to $3000.

8. SALUKI

Portrait of a Elegant Saluki Arabian Hound
iStock/ClarkandCompany

​The Saluki is the Royal Dog of Egypt, meaning it has been man's best friend since the pharaohs roamed the pyramids. Salukis are classed as a sighthound, with long legs and a deep chest. Being tall and lean, the males can weigh up to 60 pounds and measure up to 28 inches. Prices of these pups can reach up to $2500.

5 Ways You Can Help California's Wildfire Victims

Fire Captain Steve Millosovich carries a cage full of cats after a wildfire destroyed homes and land in Paradise, California.
Fire Captain Steve Millosovich carries a cage full of cats after a wildfire destroyed homes and land in Paradise, California.
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

The “Camp Fire” in Northern California’s Butte County has killed more than 40 people and destroyed more than 7100 homes since it started tearing through the region on November 8. Authorities are still investigating the cause, but it has already been labeled the deadliest wildfire in California’s history. At the same time, two other fires—Woolsey and Hill—have been wreaking damage in areas northwest of Los Angeles. Here are some ways you can help the victims.

1. DONATE MONEY

Making a financial contribution to a nonprofit that’s helping wildfire victims is usually the best way of ensuring your donation will be utilized, according to the Center for International Disaster Information. The flexibility of a monetary donation lets disaster responders decide what’s most needed at any given moment. Listed below are a few of the charities and companies accepting donations on behalf of victims, according to The New York Times.

American Red Cross

California Community Foundation’s Wildlife Relief Fund

California Fire Foundation

Enloe Medical Center

Google (Scroll down and click "Yes, Donate")

Humane Society of Ventura County

North Valley Community Foundation

Salvation Army

United Way of Greater Los Angeles

Before determining which charity to choose, it pays to visit Charity Navigator and do a little bit of research to determine which organizations are the most reputable, and how much of your donation will make it directly to the victims.

2. DONATE FOOD

If you’re based in California and want to contribute something other than money, you have a few options. But first, make sure you’re choosing an organization that has the time and resources to coordinate these donations. Los Angeles firefighters, for example, received way more goods (to the tune of 5000 pounds) than they could handle. However, you can still donate non-perishable food items to the Salvation Army Ventura Corps, which is assisting individuals affected by the Woolsey and Hill fires in Southern California. If you happen to see days-old requests for donated goods, just visit that organization's website or social media channels first to make sure they aren't at full capacity.

3. OPEN UP YOUR HOME

Airbnb is encouraging people in the Butte County region to open up their homes to wildfire victims while the figure out longer-term arrangements. From now through November 29, Airbnb users can advertise their homes as free, temporary shelters for aid workers and evacuees, The New York Times reports. Hosts have the chance to communicate with potential guests in advance, and hosts can also determine the length of stay. Hosts in Butte County are welcome to sign up (click here for more info), as well as those living in Ventura, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San Diego counties (click here for info).

4. FOSTER OR ADOPT A PET

Just as humans are being displaced by California's wildfires, so too are their pets. Whether it's because they've been separated from their families or their pet parents are in a temporary living situation that does not allow for animals, hundreds of now-homeless pets are arriving at shelters around California every day. In order to make as much room as possible for more intakes, LA Animal Services posted an urgent call for fosters and adopters on its Facebook page. If you're not in the California area, donating money and supplies to these same shelters is also an option. SPCAla, for example, has set up an Amazon Wish List.

5. VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME AND EXPERTISE

Caring Choices, a nonprofit in Northern California, is currently accepting applications from volunteers with medical backgrounds or other skills—such as data entry, radio communications, or animal care—that are currently needed. (Manual skills, like being able to remove debris, are also listed on the volunteer application form.)

They’ve already received thousands of volunteer applications and aren’t able to sift through them all immediately, but they’re still urging volunteers in the region to apply. “This a marathon and not a sprint,” the organization wrote on its website. “We will need more volunteers in the coming weeks and months as we continue through the disaster response, relief, and recovery efforts.” To apply, fill out this application and email it to aavendano@caring-choices.org. You may also want to consider volunteering with the United Way or The American Red Cross.

Keep checking California Volunteers for additional volunteer opportunities.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER