Moths and Butterflies in
Great Smoky Mountains National Park


The preliminary results of the Park's first-ever moth and butterfly inventory have been completed and the initial results are impressive. Over 20 professional and amateur lepidopterists from across North America came to the Park as part of the All Taxa-Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI), to search and identify every species of plant and animal life in the 800 square mile national park.

Moth Blitz Facts Sheet:

* The twenty professional and amateur entomologists assembled in the Park for a 24-hour nature quest that began at 3:00 PM on Tuesday the 26th.

* By they end of the 24 hours a total of 706 species had been identified with numerous specimens yet to be determined. Once all these unidentified specimens can be more carefully researched through the literature, dissected, and compared to museum specimen collections this 706 species total is expected to climb. In addition, 30 to 40 caterpillars of yet-to-be-identified species were collected by volunteers, and some of these may metamorpose into species that were not seen by the team on the day of their quest.

* Of the 706 species, 301 species were previously unknown in the Park.

* 25 species new to science (never been given a Latin name) and one new genus to
science were found.

The scientists themselves were amazed by the high total. Prior to the count, each participant was asked how many species they expected to find during the blitz: their estimates ranged from 350 to 600. The 706 one-day total shattered the previous North American record of 507 butterflies and moths recorded by Richard Brown and students on Mississippi's Black Belt Prairie. The results underscored the fact that the Smokies are hyperdiverseóthere are few places in North American where one could hope to see as many plant and animal species in a single day.

*Scientists rediscovered a ghost moth on Clingmans Dome that occurs at only two other sites in the world. Ghost moths are ancient creatures whose ancestry traces back to the time of dinosaurs. The group felt that this species was one of their most significant finds.

* Voucher specimens from the count will be deposited at the Park, Smithsonian Institution, and Field Museum where they will be available to the public and research.

*Moth specimens not required for current scientific purposes have been frozen for use in the park's environmental education programs. Students will be introduced to the natural biodiversity of the park and region by identifying these common moths using pictorial field guides.

* After the count, there was considerable discussion about what the total species diversity in the Smokies was likely to be. Most participants agreed that the total was likely to be in the vicinity of 3500 butterfly and moth species.

* Institutional Affiliations of Principal Team Volunteers
James Adams - Dalton State University
John Brown - Systematic Entomology Lab, United States Department of Agriculture
Donald R. Davis - Smithsonian Institution
Marc Epstein - Smithsonian Institution
Paul Goldstein - Field Museum
John Himmelman - author and amateur lepidopterist
Keith Langdon - Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Buck Lewis - Systematic Entomology Lab, United States Department of Agriculture
Eric Metzler - Ohio Lepidopterists' Society
Becky Nichols - Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Michael Pogue -Systematic Entomology Lab, United States Department of Agriculture
Jerry Powell - University of California, Berkeley
Brian Scholtens - College of Charleston
Dale Schweitzer - The Nature Conservancy
Bo Sullivan - amateur lepidopterist
Paul Super - Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont
Mike Thomas - Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
David L. Wagner - University of Connecticut

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