Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Circle Closes

It's a girl! Actually, it's two girls, so far. The Swamp Metalmark project continues to push ever further into uncharted territory. I recently posted the first photos we've ever gotten of the chrysalis of this species. Last week, adult butterflies began emerging. Progress was slow at first, just as pupations were. Things have picked up rapidly this week. We're now up to ten adults. Yesterday the first two females emerged.

Way back last summer, we collected gravid females up in Wisconsin. I have seen a lot of courtship activity in the flight cage, but no actual mating. It is not unusual for us not to observe any mating at all, even when it happens. I'm pretty sure that the female have now mated. We won't know for sure until we get fertile eggs out of them. Still, if my hunch is correct, it means that for the first time ever, we have succeeded in getting the metalmarks to complete a full life cycle in the lab, returning to the stage that we collected in the wild.

There's still lots of work to be done. We hope to get lots and lots of eggs out of these girls, and will rear the larvae in the lab. In about a month, we'll set them outside to overwinter in special cages. I will blog all the gory details.

Side Note: It's not unusual in butterflies to have the males emerge from their chrysalides sooner than the females do. We had eight males emerge before we got a single female. I expect that the last of the adults to emerge in this generation will be similarly skewed towards females. We have a dozen pupae yet to emerge, and more larvae on the way.

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At 09:43, Blogger robin andrea said...

They are beautiful. What a fantastic success. Thanks for this very hopeful update.

At 11:23, Blogger Robert V. Sobczak said...

That's a very interesting project, it reminds me vaguely of Darwin with his pigeons.

At 13:59, Blogger Floridacracker said...

They grow up so fast.

At 16:50, Blogger Lemuel said...

Congratulations on your continuing success with these butterflies!

At 22:32, Anonymous Beetles in the Bush said...

Doug - please do keep posting on this project. I'm enjoying reading about it. Congrats on the females, and let's keep our fingers crossed for some fertile eggs.
regards -- ted

At 03:22, Blogger Ur-spo said...

seriously, how does one know the sex of a butterfly - are there shape/colour or size differences?
or do the female butterflies wear lipstick?

At 10:05, Blogger Gallicissa said...

Congratulations, Doug!
What a success story. I hope those girls will produce lots of eggs.

At 22:36, Blogger rodger said...

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At 22:39, Blogger rodger said...

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At 22:48, Blogger rodger said...

Congratulations Doug! This is very good news, I look forward to the gory details.

Question...Do the males usually emerge first, like mason bees, to lie in wait for mating with the females as soon as they emerge?

At 12:48, Blogger Texas Travelers said...

Go Girl Power !
Nice post. I have been following with interest.

Come visit anytime,
Troy and Martha

PS: Alaska Sunday Hope, AK photos are up today.

At 15:43, Blogger Doug Taron said...

robin- Thanks. It's so great to be able to share news like this with my blogging friends

Robert V. Sobczak- Greetings and welcome to the Tapestry. Interesting that you see a connection of this work to some of Darwin's. Thanks.

FC and Lem- Thanks. You have both been around long enough to have seen this story unfold on my blog. It's nice to be able to share a good outcome.

Ted- Thanks for the encouragement. I'll continue to post updates as interesting things happen.

Spo- Only pitbulls wear lipstick. In the case of metalmarks, the easiest way to determine sex is to look at the legs. In the males, the front pair of legs is underdeveloped and held off the ground close to the body. The females walk on all six legs.

Rodger- Thanks. And yes, the males emerge first. Our first eight adults were all male. Now we're up to about a 50:50 ratio.

Troy and Martha- I like the Girl Power! MOre on this story to come.


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