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Tales of urban conservation: Eumaeus butterflies and their threatened cycad hostplants

Ramírez-Restrepo, Lorena, Koi, Sandy, MacGregor-Fors, Ian
Urban ecosystems 2017 v.20 no.2 pp. 375-378
Cycadopsida, Lycaenidae, butterflies, ecosystems, extinction, flagship species, habitats, neurotoxicity, plants (botany), reproduction, threatened species, urban areas, urbanization, North America, South America
Urbanization has caused the local extinction of several butterfly species around the world, while others have managed to thrive in urban areas. Butterflies of the genus Eumaeus are among the most striking and colorful lycaenid butterflies in the Americas, but their neurotoxic hostplants, cycads, are a highly threatened plant group. The main threats for cycads are the loss and modification of their habitats and their removal for ornamental purposes, which in addition to their slow growth rate, make them highly vulnerable. Ornamental cycads are taken from natural habitats to urban areas, where they are playing an important role for Eumaeus reproduction. We here report two cases in which two Eumaeus species (E. childrenae, E. atala) are following and utilizing ornamental cycads to reproduce in urban areas, showing how significant urban areas can be, ecologically speaking. Aside from having enormous potential as flagship species for conservation in urban areas, these butterfly and plant species, and their interactions, shed encouraging light on the idea of putting reconciliation ecology ideas into action.