Government views Monarch Butterfly Releases as a threat to We stern Milkweeds

Stan Gorodenski stanlep at
Mon Dec 10 23:22:24 EST 2001

Paul, I do not wish to be or appear antagonistic to you, but I have some
strong feelings about what I have observed that I feel I need to
express.  I have read Dr. Oberhauser's statements you submitted in this
forum, and I did not have any difficulty in understanding what she is
saying.  You have asked for explanations of the scientific basis for her
statements, but I, quite frankly, think it is a waste of time to attempt
to make you understand because this is not your agenda.  It appears that
you have a self interest in seeing that butterfly releases are
permitted, and as a result you are entirely restricting your view of
things to the immediate goals you are pursuing without any regard to the
long term.  I also think your sole purpose in posing these questions in
this forum is not to get information or learn, per see, but instead to
influence individuals who do not have a strong background in
evolutionary biology.  Your arguments (consisting of a lot of quotes
from individuals such as Bruce Walsh), on the surface are reasonable, if
not probed too deeply (such as questioning the context of some of the
statements you quote, or the scientific assumptions in population
genetics theory that underlay some of these statements), but to respond
to them adequately would probably loose many individuals.  These
individuals may walk away confused about everything else except for your
statements, which, again, on the surface seem quite reasonable. 

I also think your arguments are entirely compatible with a creationist's
point of view.  From such a view, species did not result from natural
evolution.  Instead, all species in there present form (except for minor
genetic differences between populations) were made by a (christian?) god
through special creation.  Thus, since 'man' was also created through
special creation and is the pinnacle of His creation, it would be
acceptable to exploit the environment, possibly as long as the 'type'
(as in typology) species is not completely eliminated.  With respect to
the Monarch, since species were and are not being created through
natural evolution (as under creationism), interpopulation releases would
be considered acceptable because a local population of a Monarch could
never evolve into a reproductively isolated species.  

Finally, with respect to butterfly releases in general, I think the
practice is a hold over from man-woman-kind's primitive ancestry.  It
seems to me that the one trait butterfly releasing (for weddings,
birthdays, and other such events) has in common with satanism is that
both use other life forms for ritualistic purposes and societal (group)
events.  For this reason, I am totally against these kinds of releases,
and do not support businesses that promote this activity.


Paul Cherubini wrote:
> Ken Kaufman wrote:
> > Paul,  Thank you for passing along this very well reasoned opinion
> > from Dr. Karen Oberhauser.  Her points are certainly persuasive,
> > and provide more strong reasons to avoid shipping Monarchs any
> > distance for release.  I'm glad to see you providing something
> > useful to the discussion this time.
> Ken, I personally have a difficult time understanding the scientific basis of
> Dr. Karen Oberhauser's concerns. I ask myself, are they reasonable, legitimate
> scientific concerns based on a negligible risk standard or are they questionable
> concerns based on a zero risk standard?  Perhaps you can help me understand
> the scientific basis of some of Dr. Karen Oberhauser's concerns.
> Karen says "there is evidence that monarchs become genetically differentiated
> [based on the old, 1978  method of using  protein (electrophoretic) markers]
> by the end of the summer," and "If shipping monarchs from Minnesota to
> Maine has even the slightest chance of disupting genetic structure, or of
> making it difficult to study that structure, I don't think we should do it."
> Ken, what I'd like you to do (or anyone else on the list) is is explain
> how a modest amount of human assisted shipping of Minnesota
> monarchs to Maine (or vice versa) has even a slight chance of disrupting
> the genetic structure of the recipient population or how these introductions could
> make it difficult for a researcher to study that structure in late summer?
> Dr. Bruce Walsh at the  University of Arizona, Tucson, offered
> the following analysis of these questions last year:
> Bruce wrote:
> "The short answer to the issue of releases confusing studies of local population
> structure is that this is indeed correct with the older methods of using protein
> markers (electrophoretic markers) to look at population structure. However,
> the point is somewhat moot for several reasons.
> First, releases are likely to be such a very small proportion of the population
> as to not likely be sampled in any random sample of the population used to
> examine local structure.
> Second, suppose that indeed a very genetically different strain is released
> and somehow incorporated into a random sample from the population that
> is used for looking at population structure. Typically, researchers use
> genetic markers to reconstruct what amounts to a phylogenetic tree of
> relationships among individuals (marker genotypes) in the sample. Any
> distinct individual from the new population will show up as major outliners on
> the tree, with no connecting individuals. If such a tree is not attempted to be
> reconstruct, these individuals can give larger Fst (a statistical for population
> structure) than is indicated by the true population. However, studies failing to
> attempt to reconstruct the local phylogeny are very poorly done and are unlikely
> to be published under today's standards.
> Third, DNA markers are now the norm. Unlike protein markers, one
> can use dead museum material in many cases for DNA. Hence,
> material predating any release is likely available if the research simply
> looks in local collections. Further, using tightly-linked genetic
> markers (SNPs, for single nucleotide polymorphisms), it is again
> straightforward to find those individuals that are very distinct, and
> again we expect gaps between the local individuals and the released
> individuals.
> In summary, unless the released material makes up a significant fraction
> of the local breeding population (at least over 1 percent and likely over 5 percent),
> it is unlikely to be obtained in a random population sample. Even if such
> distinct genotypes are included, standard methods using DNA markers
> to look at population substructure can detect such extreme, outliers, and
> hence these do not compromise the studies."
>  ------------------------------------------------------------
>    For subscription and related information about LEPS-L visit:


   For subscription and related information about LEPS-L visit: 

More information about the Leps-l mailing list