Page 12 - McGuireCenterNewsletter2013

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A tiger moth,
Cissura plumbea
McGuire Center for
Lepidoptera and Biodiversity
Florida Museum of Natural History
University of Florida Cultural Plaza
PO Box 112710
Gainesville, FL 32611-2710
In 2009, Debbie Matthews and I initiated a
comprehensive biodiversity survey of the Lepidoptera
of Honduras. Since then, many Museum staff and
students have taken part in the survey, and taught or
taken the entomological field courses we have offered
in this country.
The project was undertaken in collaboration
with Centro Zamorano de Biodiversidad, Escuela
Agrícola Panamericana–Zamorano, the Lodge at Pico
Bonito, and the Centro Universitario Regional del
Litoral Atlantico. Based on the results of five trips,
the first checklist of the Lepidoptera of Honduras
was published.
Subsequent surveys have increased
the total number of butterflies and moths found
there to nearly 3,000 species, but based on the fauna
of neighboring countries, the species diversity of
Lepidoptera in Honduras should exceed 6,000!
Mesoamerica is a biodiversity hotspot that
includes all tropical and subtropical ecosystems
from eastern Panama north and west through Costa
Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Belize and
Guatemala, including portions of southern and
coastal Mexico.
Historical geological evidence
indicates a wide separation of North and South
America from the Cretaceous through the Oligocene,
with the continents fully attached during the
Pliocene. Honduras was the last geographical portion
of this corridor to be completed, and the study of
the butterflies and moths in that country provides
a more substantial timeline for dispersal of species
throughout the Caribbean Basin.
Surveys initially focused on biodiversity. Following
each trip, we processed, labeled and identified
specimens, and deposited a synoptic collection in the
Centro Zamorano de Biodiversidad, Escuela Agrícola
Panamericana–Zamorano. As a result, we have
increased taxonomic representation in its collection
and assisted with curation. We have also expanded
our collaborations with institutions in neighboring
countries through publications, informing them of
other potential regional species.
Conducting these surveys has provided opportunity
for educational outreach. McGuire Center staff
have given lectures to educators, students and
administrators about how the surveys are conducted
and how specimens should be processed and
identified. Most of the audiences have been previously
involved in the study of vertebrates and have had
little experience with invertebrates. Hence the
lectures have provided them with novel points of view
concerning the significance of butterflies and moths
as bioindicators of environmental changes and about
the possible conservation management implications
of these surveys. Another aspect of educational
outreach has been teaching the importance of
making and preserving collections in general, and
of collecting long series of specimens similar in
appearance to study species variation and discover
cryptic new species.
We have taken students, colleagues and research
associates on these trips to experience the joy of
discovering species diversity and observing butterfly
behavior. Night collecting has been especially
rewarding as associates and students observe various
moth groups attracted to light. The participants
also had an opportunity to witness the dramatic
predator-prey interactions when opportunistic birds
and other predators come to feed on moths at the
collecting lights before dawn. The survey has provided
many opportunities to learn the inner workings
of ecotourism at the lodge, and of conservation
management and sustainability of the delicate tropical
ecosystems. The project not only contributes to
our scientific knowledge, but, perhaps even more
importantly, increases the value and appreciation
of the natural resources of Honduras for future
generations of its citizens and those of the world.
Miller, J. Y., D. L. Matthews, A. D. Warren, M. A.
Solis, D. J. Harvey, P. Gentili-Poole, R. Lehman, T. C.
Emmel, and C. V. Covell. 2012. An annotated list of the
Lepidoptera of Honduras. Insecta Mundi 0205:1-72.
Mittermeier, R.A., N. Myers, and C.G. Mittermeier
(editors). 1999. Hotspots. Earth’s Biologically Richest
and Most Endangered Terrestrial Ecoregions. CEMEX,
S.A., Mexico City, Mexico. 431 pp.
The McGuire Center’s impact in Mesoamerica
Jacqueline Y. Miller, Curator, McGuire Center ____________________________________________
Azeta rhodogaster
Eulepidotis punctilinea
Leopard Moth,
Coenostolopsis apicalis
Field work in Honduras