Once abundant in the greater Miami area and the Florida Keys, these endangered butterflies are now limited primarily to Biscayne National Park. The Schaus’ population has rebounded significantly due in part to University of Florida conservation efforts and breeding programs.


Schaus’ Swallowtail (Heraclides aristodemus ponceanus)
From Miami-Dade Co., Florida, 1970s




The critically endangered Schaus’ Swallowtail is a large, iconic butterfly found in South Florida. Additional subspecies occur in the Bahamas, Cuba and Hispaniola. Historically, the butterfly inhabited dense upland forests called tropical hardwood hammocks from the greater Miami area south through the Florida Keys. Habitat loss and fragmentation over the past century have led to severe population declines and range reductions.

Prompted by the significant declines, the Schaus’ Swallowtail was listed as federally threatened in 1976, being the first insect listed under the Endangered Species Act along with the Bahamian Swallowtail. This status was later elevated to endangered in 1984.

The devastating impact of Hurricane Andrew in 1992 further reduced population numbers. Today, Schaus’ Swallowtail is restricted to only a few remaining sites in the northern Florida Keys, making it one of the rarest butterflies in the U.S. and our only federally listed swallowtail. Although small numbers occur on northern Key Largo, the main population stronghold resides on the islands of Biscayne National Park.

The current risk of extinction is thought to be very high, as recent surveys revealed extremely depressed population numbers with a low of only four individuals found range-wide in 2012. In response, collaborative conservation recovery efforts led by the Florida Museum of Natural History are underway. They include regular population monitoring, captive breeding, organism reintroduction and habitat restoration.

Jaret Daniels
Director, McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity*
Florida Museum of Natural History


On display Sept. 23, 2017-Jan. 7, 2018, Rare, Beautiful & Fascinating: 100 Years @FloridaMuseum celebrated the Museum’s rich history. Each Museum collection was asked to contribute its most interesting items and share the stories that make them special. Though the physical exhibit is closed, this companion website remains online, providing an opportunity to experience the Florida Museum’s most treasured specimens.

Exhibit Area: On the Brink

Theme: Success Story

Cover of the All Things Beautiful bookWant to see more? Explore more than 300 breathtaking color photos of plants, animals, fossils and cultural heritage materials from the Florida Museum of Natural History’s collections in the award-winning book All Things Beautiful available from the University Press of Florida.

*This title was accurate at the time the exhibit was on display in 2017. Please visit the collection website to verify current staff and student information.

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