Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Vladimir Nabokov gets the final word

Vladimir Nabokov is best know for his literary works, most prominently, Lolita. But in all reality, he used his astonishing talent at writing to fund his greater love, butterflies. In fact he was so meticulous in his research that he developed a hypotheses that was far beyond his time.

While he had published descriptions of hundreds of butterflies he spent a great amount of time specifically on Polyommatus blues. He meticulously dissected and based on physical differences discerned that they did not have a common ancestor with their Amazonian cousins. He noticed that they were closer to lepidopterans he had collected in Asia. With this insight, he came to only one conclusion, that they had to have come from Asia, where a similar species was well known. But he didn't stop there, based on his findings, he suggested that they came over in five waves, each more adapted to the cold then the last.

At the time he was laughed at. But times change. Naomi Pierce at Harvard decided to take up the case again. When she became the curator of Lepidoptera she went through some of the old notes, including those left by Vladimir Nabokov, who had also been curator of Lepidoptera.

When she found his hypothesis of Asiatic butterflies coming to the 'new world' she set up an expedition to test his hypotheses. She got together an international group of Lepidopterits and after four expeditions into the Andes to catch the blues that Nabokov had so carefully examimed.

Using gene sequencing, Dr. Pierce found that Vladimir was right down to the very detail. That it appeared most likely that they descended from an Asiatic blue that crossed the the Bearing Strait while it was warm enough and did so in five waves. Each more cold hardy then the last.

So congratulations Vladimir Nabokov, you were right all along.

A bow to the Bad Astronomer for this information
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1 comment:

the chaplain said...

Thanks for the fascinating story. It's a good thing Nabokov's writings didn't get trashed before they could be validated.