Butterfly encyclopedia series a ‘milestone’ for Taiwan

  • By Yang Yuan-ting and Kayleigh Madjar / Personal Reporter, with a personal editor

The final volume of a comprehensive encyclopedia of Taiwanese butterflies has been published, marking a milestone in Asian lepidopterology.

In five volumes and six books, Butterfly Fauna of Taiwan (臺灣蝶類誌) contains introductions and color photographs of the wide variety of butterfly species found in Taiwan, as well as detailed descriptions in Chinese and English.

This year has seen the publication of the fifth and final volume of the project which began in 2018, the Forestry Bureau announced on Wednesday.

Photo courtesy of Forestry Bureau, Council of Agriculture and Executive Yuan

It was compiled by the office with Hsu Yu-feng (徐堉峰), a renowned butterfly and moth expert at National Taiwan Normal University.

Nicknamed the “Butterfly Kingdom,” Taiwan is home to one of the highest concentrations of butterfly species in the world thanks to its position between the Palearctic and Indo-Malaysian biogeographical realms.

Each volume in the series focuses on a different family of butterflies, starting with the swallowtails (Papilionidae).

The next three cover pierid butterflies (Pieridae), skippers (Hesperiidae), and wispy-winged butterflies (Lycaenidae), respectively.

The final volume of this year presents the largest family of brush-footed butterflies (Nymphalidae) in two books, one for descriptions and the other for pictures.

A total of 429 species are introduced in the series.

Most biological monographs exclude introduced or contested species, but Butterfly Fauna of Taiwan discusses 42 of them, breaking with the tradition of formatting and classification, the bureau said.

Many international researchers have become interested in the series for its detailed descriptions of insect anatomical and reproductive systems, the office said, adding that Japanese lepidopterists have adopted its classification system.

In addition to the five years he worked on the series, Hsu has 15 years of experience in the field.

Most of the Taiwanese butterfly specimens are kept in the UK, Germany, Japan and other countries, but with support from the office, Hsu was able to travel to analyze them and even bring back some, he said. declared.

Throughout the long process, Hsu said he observed a change in attitude towards conservation among Taiwanese.

However, climate change has affected some species, he added.

Additionally, Hsu said there was still a mystery to be solved.

Taiwan was once the southernmost range area of ​​the Old World yellow swallowtail swallowtail (Papilio machaon), which was common in mid- and high-altitude regions of southern Taiwan.

However, after the 921 earthquake in 1999, they all but disappeared, leaving the lingering question of how a butterfly could be related to an earthquake.

The publication of the encyclopedia is a “milestone in Taiwanese lepidopterology,” which inspired Japan to create its own national butterfly monograph, the office said.

Butterfly Fauna of Taiwan is to be released as a free e-book after updating some of its information, he added.

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