PhD students' & Master students'

SUMMER CAMP

PhD students' & Master students'

SUMMER CAMP

PhD students' & Master students'

SUMMER CAMP

PhD students' & Master students'

SUMMER CAMP

PhD students' & Master students'

SUMMER CAMP

PhD students' & Master students'

SUMMER CAMP

PhD students' & Master students'

SUMMER CAMP

PhD students' & Master students'

SUMMER CAMP

PhD students' & Master students'

SUMMER CAMP

PhD students' & Master students'

SUMMER CAMP

PhD students' & Master students'

SUMMER CAMP

PhD students' & Master students'

SUMMER CAMP

PhD students' & Master students'

SUMMER CAMP

PhD students' & Master students'

SUMMER CAMP

PhD students' & Master students'

SUMMER CAMP

PhD students' & Master students'

SUMMER CAMP

PhD students' & Master students'

SUMMER CAMP

PhD students' & Master students'

SUMMER CAMP

PhD students' & Master students'

SUMMER CAMP

PhD students' & Master students'

SUMMER CAMP

ERIC H. METZLER: LONG TERM STUDY IN THE WHITE SANDS NATIONAL MONUMENT OF SOUTHERN NEW MEXICO REVEALED A REMARKABLE ENDEMISM OF MOTHS: Noctuoidea, Gelechioidea, Tortricidae, Cossidae

The white gypsum dunes that are the White Sands is a geologic formation only about 8,000 years old. This unique feature, recently referred to as the “Galapagos of North America” is the largest, 712 km², gypsum dunes formation in the world.

White Sands National Monument, about 40% of the formation, was set aside in 1933 to protect the natural resources of the dunes and to promote tourism in the poverty and drought stricken part of southern New Mexico. For most of the years since its creation the National Monument was more of a curiosity than the subject of scientific investigation. When I moved to New Mexico in 2005, scientific investigation was just getting started. I was invited by the National Park Service to conduct a 10-year study of moths in the dunes.

My transect is 2 ½ km long and 100 m wide at the southeastern edge of the dunes. Within two years approximately 650 species of named moths were recorded in the seemingly barren desert, and 30 species of moths in five families, never before seen and new to science, were collected. Gelechioidea are especially well represented in the list of undescribed species. To date I and my colleagues named two species of Gelechioidea: Chionodes hodgesorum and Areniscythris whitesands. Another paper naming a second nearly white Scythrididae is in review, and a paper naming a new Chionodes, which is pure white, is in preparation. More new Gelechioidae (Scythrididae, Coleophoridae, Gelechiidae, Oechophoridae) are in line to be described.

One hypothesis for the rapid evolution of white or pale colored moths new to science in the dunes follows a logical progression of thought to crypsis. The discovery of so many new species of moths suggests a closer look at the plants. Preliminary investigation reveals the plants in the dunes do not share the same genetic make-up and accompanying microbes as the same species of plants outside the dunes. The pure gypsum soils may be a factor. The number of possible explanations for the rapid evolution in so many moth families seems now to be limited by our imagination.

Twelve papers have been published describing 12 new species within the past 7 years. Some of the papers, in ZooKeys, are freely accessible. You can find them by going to http://www.pensoft.net/ and doing a search on “The Lepidoptera of White Sands National Monument” (include the quotation marks in your search). Two other online papers explain more about the white dunes and my research:

http://www.southwestlearning.org/download_product/2240/0 and http://www.wnpa.org/research-item/a-whiter-shade-of-moth/

The white gypsum dunes of southern New Mexico are relatively undisturbed from their natural condition.  Access for human activity is limited because 100% of the dunes are owned by the U.S. Army and the White Sands National Monument.  The protection of the entirety of the geologic formation provides a natural, unspoiled, accessible laboratory for research for many years in the future.