When Montanans think of stoneflies, chances are they have a mental image of the big bugs that hatch out in the early summer along the Big Hole or Madison rivers that make big trout an easy target for fly anglers. But there are actually almost 3,500 stonefly species that have been identified around the world.
One of those, the meltwater stonefly, has been petitioned for listing as an endangered species because its habitat is rapidly diminishing. The meltwater stonefly lives in streams in alpine areas, like Glacier National Park. The bugs have adapted to thrive in extremely cold waters fed by melting snow, hence their name.
But according to a study published in Climatic Change Letters, the loss of glaciers and warming climate is a threat to the creatures. Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Montana, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service cooperated on the research.
"This isn't just about an obscure insect that most people will never see -- it's about an entire threatened ecosystem which harbors a whole suite of rare, poorly known, native species -- the biology and survival of which are dependent on very cold water," said Joe Giersch, USGS scientist and co-author of the study.