gene pool and releases

Patrick Foley patfoley at
Sun Jun 17 11:42:37 EDT 2001

Chris and other lepsters,

"Chris J. Durden" wrote:

> Monarchs seem to be doing very nicely in Australia and other parts of the
> world. I think this is proof enough that they are rather robust and not in
> danger of pathogenic wipeout any more than we are. Seems the
> epidemiological argument against use of monarchs at weddings and other
> occasions and performance art are a bunch of hot air hypotheses! Let's not
> be meanies and deprive the folks who "like to set their monarchs free", of
> their fun.

Humans were doing very well in Tierra del Fuego until they were wiped out by
disease brought from Europe. Example like this numerous in the one species we know
at all well, humans.

I would rather people do what they please, but when it the potential to cause
problems for others (including the butterflies and people who want to understand
the nature of butterflies), the responsible choice does not seem to be nonlocal
releases. If people are desperate for butterflies at their weddings, let them raise
them locally. Give the neighborhood children a small home industry.

>     The known red admiral in North America 38 million years ago (late
> Eocene, long, long before *Australopithecus*) was very close (in the same
> lineage) to *Vanessa indica*). The genus was probably well established in
> the Cretaceous along with the Snout Butterflies. *V. indica*, *V.
> atalanta*, *V. cardui* and others have been hopping between continents ever
> since. The only wild hybrid I am familiar with are those between *V.
> atalanta rubria* and *V. annabella* in California. Neither of them seem to
> be in any immediate danger of being genetically swamped by the other
> ..........Chris Durden

I was joking about Australopithecus wedding butterflies. I am not joking about the
evolution of local adaptations. There are many evolutionary biologists (Ernst Mayr,
Stephen Gould, Alan Templeton) who believe that geopgraphic isolation is essential
for whatever magic is needed to produce new species. I tend more to the school of
Lande, Charlesworth, Barton, Endler, MJD White and Charles Darwin, who would argue,
to one extent or another, that absolute reproductive isolation is not critical,
that natural selection can overwhelm the inflow of poorly co-adapted genes.

Having given you some theoretical support, I have to remind us all how
controversial this area is. Most paleontologists appear to agree with Gould. I do
not think that we can flippantly state that there are no problems here.

Has anyone seen a paper on the evolution of Vanessa, giving some explanation for
the rise of  V. annabella and V. virginiensis? Florissant Butterflies by Emmel,
Minno and Drummond puts Vanessa amerindica (apparently related to Eurasian Vanessa
indica )at 35MYA. When did annabella and virginiensis arise and how? Does anyone
have any good references for fossil or molecular studies that might help?

Patrick Foley
patfoley at

> At 07:51 AM 6/16/2001 -0700, you wrote:
> >Paul and all,
> >
> >As we have already pointed out on this list, Monarchs and Painted Ladies
> >seem the
> >safest candidates for unregulated release due to their migratory habits,
> >BUT ...
> >
> >Even Painted Ladies occasionally achieve reproductive isolation and
> >speciate as is
> >evident from the four mainland species of Vanessa. If Australopithecus had
> >colonized North America and practiced wedding releases, we might have just two
> >species on the continent. This may seem trivial to you, but the long term
> >consequences are profound.
> >
> >Nature has many tricks and we do not know them all. Hybrid dysgenesis,
> >selfish DNA
> >and runaway sexual selection are evolutionary oddities that could play a
> >big role
> >in butterfly evolution, but have been little studied. I know from my
> >collaborative
> >work (with my wife Dr. Janet Foley PhD, DVM) on emerging tick-borne
> >diseases in
> >mammals that the host-array of an infectious disease can be a shifting,
> >elusive
> >concept. The tick Ixodes pacificus uses perhaps 200 vertebrate host species in
> >California, including mammals, birds and lizards. It carries several
> >diseases, one
> >of which is caused by bacteria of the genus Ehrlichia. This causes occasional
> >fatalities in humans and horses, but you probably haven't heard about it
> >because
> >high prevalence is largely limited to the North eastern USA and northern
> >CA, as far
> >as we know. But we don't know why and we don't what will happen with this
> >disease
> >next. And epidemiologists, and human and veterinary medical researchers
> >have spent
> >a lot of time already on this.
> >
> >What we don't know about insect diseases and parasites is far greater than
> >what we
> >do.Asher Treat (1975) in his book on mites of butterflies and moths writes
> >that in
> >1964, one author wrote that "Lepidoptera are mostly free of epizoa". By
> >1975 Treat
> >could discuss at least 157 species of mites on lepidoptera. I suspect
> >there are
> >even more than that, don't you? Do you think we know all the diseases of
> >butterflies, or their potential for spread? I don't. Is this scientific
> >arrogance
> >on my part?
> >
> >Harry Kaya is a top insect pathologist, but he is not a geneticist not an
> >evolutionary biologist nor an epidemiologist. I am. That doesn't make me
> >right, it
> >simply means that appeals to authority are chancy things. It is good to
> >hear that
> >the Monarch pathogenesis work was done. Where was it published?
> >
> >Patrick Foley
> >patfoley at


   For subscription and related information about LEPS-L visit: 

More information about the Leps-l mailing list