Moth Inventory Finds Scores of Species in Saguaro Park

Chris Grinter is with the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, He recently joined the 2011 BioBlitz in Arizona’s Saguaro National Park, where he and colleagues identified some 145 species of moths in the preserve. The specimens included moths as small as a pinhead, others much larger, and at least one alien species that started moving into Arizona only a few years ago.

The moths were caught with a black light trap, enticing the winged denizens of the night into a holder where the scientists could collect them in the morning. The diversity of the moths was pretty much as expected, Grinter said, especially given the dry conditions, which would account for a reduction in the number of species trapped. “If it had been wet, we probably would have expected three times as much as there would have been,” he said.

Lepidoptera (a large order of insects that includes moths and butterflies) are very important indicator species, Grinter told me. “Lepidoptera are probably the third most abundant order of insects … [and] having a good idea of what species there are in an ecosystem is very important,” he said.

Bats, rodents and other animals prey on moths, Grinter said. “Probably one of their most important roles in the ecosystem is food for other animals.”

In Arizona alone, there could be as many as 4,500 different species of moths, and in the U.S. there are probably 15,000 species, “including all the undescribed species, which we still have no idea how many there are,” Grinter said. It would appear that there’s enough to keep scientists busy for many years to come.

12418031_10153900711084116_8462971761216697621_nDavid Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.

He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.

Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship

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More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn