The wildfires that charred vast areas of Southern California last fall may also have put the survival of two rare species of butterflies at risk, researchers say.
Some experts say it became apparent even while the fires were still smoldering that the flames that blackened more than 745,000 acres, destroyed more than 3,400 homes and killed nearly two dozen people also threatened the existence of the Hermes copper and Thorne's hairstreak butterflies.
"When I saw the magnitude of devastation, I realized in my lifetime I might see one, possibly two species go extinct," said biological consultant Michael Klein.
The Hermes, which catches sunlight brilliantly in its yellow underwings, has only a 20 to 25 percent chance of survival, according to an estimate by David Faulkner, a forensic entomologist who has studied both species. He gave Thorne's hairstreak, unique for its purple-brown underside with iridescent green sheen, less than a 5 percent chance of survival.