University of Wyoming researchers' recent discovery of the western glacier stonefly in Grand Teton National Park may keep it off the endangered species list.

Before the discovery by Lusha Tronsta, an invertebrate zoologist with the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database at UW and his colleagues, the stonefly was thought only to live in Glacier National Park. Now, because of the discovery, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reopening the comment period to reconsider whether the stonefly should be on the endangered species list, UW says.

The insects have a very specific habitat, which is disappearing in many places.

“These insects are really special, in that they live in streams that are near glaciers,” Tronstad says in a statement. “The reason people care is because the glaciers are melting. Glaciers, which are crucial to the stoneflies’ habitat, will be lost.”

Formal estimates as to how many western glacier stoneflies live in the Tetons have not been made, Tronstad says. There is also no determination as to what threshold is needed to keep the insect off the endangered species list.

A paper written by Tronstad and her colleagues on the insect is under review by Freshwater Biology, a scientific journal.

Tronstad’s research colleagues are Joe Giersch, an aquatic entomologist at the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center with the U.S. Geological Survey; Scott Hotaling, a postdoctoral researcher at Washington State University; and Deb Finn, an assistant professor of biology at Missouri State University.


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