The Bahamas’ ecosystem just got a little bigger- or at least some species now have names. Scientists have now classified four previously unidentified species of plume moths in The Bahamas.
Plume moths are in the same subfamily as butterflies and larger moths but are much smaller. They’re typically around the size of a mosquito. Plume moths are known for their unusually modified wings, which have fringelike scales. When stretched, plume moths mirror a tiny star.
The Bahamas now has 23 discovered species of plume moths, including the four recently identified ones. Biological scientist Deborah Matthews is responsible for the latest discovery. She has been conducting plume moth excursions and field studies in the Bahamas since 1987. Eighteen of the 23 species in the Bahamas also live in Florida, and 10 of them are also located in Cuba. However, several of the species in the Bahamas are located on just one or two of the islands.
While moths might not be the most exciting or large insects, they play a vital role in The Bahamas’ unique ecosystem. “They’re part of the food web and part of the countless biodiversity treasures discovered in The Bahamas,” Matthews said. “It’s important to know what you have in an area before it’s lost.”
The recent study is part of a widespread effort, headed by the Florida Museum of Natural History, to record the complete diversity of moths and butterflies in The Bahamas. The report is also indented to guide policymakers on sustainability and conservation conclusions so that declines in biodiversity can be halted or reversed.
The Bahamas has been growing at rapid rates, but often at the expense of its diverse and delicate ecosystem. There is still hope though, and this latest study highlights how much of The Bahamas has still yet to be discovered. When the survey originally commenced in 2010, scientists knew of 300 Bahamian butterfly and moth species. Today, The Bahamas is known to host at least 1,000 species!