27. A married pair of entomology buffs from Toronto successfully concluded a 38-year quest in the mid-1970s with what has been described as one of the greatest natural history discoveries of recent times. What was the discovery?
Answer to Canada Quiz #27
The migratory path and overwintering site in Mexico of the monarch butterfly.
As a child growing up in Ontario, Fred Urquhart observed monarch butterflies flying south each year, and wondered where they were headed.
In 1937 he began developing a technique for tagging butterflies with unique identification numbers. The process was further perfected with the help of his wife, Norah Patterson. Together they took out ads appealing to volunteers to help tag monarchs and to report any tagged butterflies found.
The butterfly trail led to Mexico where the Urquhart’s enlisted the help of Ken and Cathy Brugger, who in 1975, discovered millions of monarch butterflies clinging to the oyamel trees of the Sierra Madre Mountains.
The Urquhart’s traveled to Mexico in 1976 to observe the overwintering spot themselves, and there Fred Urquhart achieved ultimate confirmation by finding a butterfly with tag number PS 397, which had been attached by two school children and their teacher in Chaska, Minnesota.
For their work the Urquhart’s were designated members of the Order of Canada in 1998.