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A bright orange butterfly perched on a yellow flower.
Information icon Puerto Rican harlequin butterfly on a flower of sea grapes. Photo by USFWS.

The Puerto Rican harlequin butterfly may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act

The Puerto Rican harlequin butterfly may warrant federal protection as a threatened or endangered species, so the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will initiate an in-depth, range-wide, scientific review of the species’ current status, known as a 12-month finding.

On February 25, 2009, Mr. Javier Biaggi-Caraballo, a private citizen, petitioned the Service to list the Puerto Rican harlequin butterfly and to designate critical habitat for the species. Today’s decision, known as a 90-day finding, is based on scientific information about the harlequin butterfly provided in the petition and information in Service files.

This initial petition finding does not mean the Service has decided it is appropriate to give the Puerto Rican harlequin butterfly federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. Rather, this finding is the first step in a process that triggers a more thorough review of all the biological information available.

Currently, the Puerto Rican harlequin butterfly is only found in the northern karst (landscape formed from dissolvable rocks) area of Puerto Rico. This colony is located in the Terranova-San Jose Ward, in Quebradillas, Puerto Rico. The species has been observed in a forest associated with the coastal cliffs of the area.

The Puerto Rican harlequin butterfly resembles the larger monarch butterfly. The top 44view of this small butterfly is mostly orange with black spots. The bottom view of the Puerto Rican harlequin is distinctive, showing an intricate pattern of spots arranged in rows of white, orange, black, and red. The pattern is somewhat similar to the diamond patterns used to make the costumes worn by jesters and harlequins for Italian comedies more than 400 years ago.

To ensure the scientific review is comprehensive, the Service is soliciting information from state and federal natural resource agencies and all interested parties regarding this butterfly. Specifically, the Service is seeking scientific information regarding the butterfly’s historical and current status and distribution; its population size and trend; its biology and ecology; its genetics; ongoing conservation measures for the species and its habitat; and threats to the long-term survival of the species.

If listing the Puerto Rican harlequin butterfly is warranted, the Service may consider the need to designate critical habitat and therefore requests information about what may constitute physical and biological features essential to the conservation of the species; where these features are currently found; whether any of these features may require special management considerations or protection; and whether there are areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species that are essential to the conservation of the species.

Comments on the 90-day finding must be received by June 25, 2010, and can be submitted by one of the following methods:

  • U.S. Mail or hand-delivered to Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R4-ES-2010-0026 Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.


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