UF Guantanamo Bay Lepidoptera study sets baseline for future research

September 6th, 2012

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida scientists publishing the first study on butterflies and moths of Guantanamo Bay Naval Station have discovered vast biodiversity in an area previously unknown to researchers.

Appearing in the Bulletin of the Allyn Museum Sept. 5, the study creates a baseline for understanding how different plant and animal species have spread throughout the Caribbean. (more…)

Science fair winner publishes new study on butterfly foraging behavior

April 30th, 2012

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – University of Florida lepidopterist Andrei Sourakov has spent his life’s work studying moths and butterflies. But it was his teenage daughter, Alexandra, who led research on how color impacts butterflies’ feeding patterns.

The research shows different species exhibit unique foraging behaviors, and the study may be used to build more effective, species-specific synthetic lures for understanding pollinators, insects on which humans depend for sustaining many crops.

In a study appearing online in April in the journal Psyche, researchers used multi-colored landing pads and baits in the Florida Museum of Natural History’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity on the UF campus to determine that some butterflies use both sight and smell to locate food, while others rely primarily on smell.

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UF researchers document caterpillars that mimic one another for survival

December 14th, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In the world of insects, high risk of attack has led to the development of camouflage as a means for survival, especially in the larval stage. One caterpillar may look like a stick, while another disguises itself as bird droppings. Though crypsis may have its advantages, University of Florida researchers uncovered some of the most extensive evidence of caterpillars using another strategy previously best-known in adult butterflies: mimicry.

Insects use camouflage to protect themselves by looking like inanimate or inedible objects, while mimicry involves one species evolving similar warning color patterns to another.

The study in the current issue of The Annals of the Entomological Society of America helps scientists better understand how organisms depend upon one another, an important factor in predicting how disturbance of natural habitats may lead to species extinctions and loss of biodiversity. (more…)

Museum researcher receives $260,000 to study echolocation in moths

November 10th, 2011

Photo available

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Whether by buzzing, singing, cawing or hissing, plenty of animals boast their own form of communication. But researchers now hope to unlock a common predator-prey language found in insects and mammals: echolocation in hawkmoths and bats.

“Moths and bats are completely unrelated yet they are talking to each other,” said principal investigator Akito Kawahara, assistant curator of Lepidoptera at the Florida Museum of Natural History. “We can’t hear it, but they certainly can, so we’re trying to do some experiments where we let the two organisms fly together and see how they interact.”

The National Science Foundation recently awarded Kawahara $260,000 to research hawkmoths’ use of echolocation as a defense mechanism against predatory bats. The grant will fund research in Ecuador, French Guinea and Borneo, molecular biology lab work at the Florida Museum, and experiments at a live bat cage in Boise, Idaho, run by co-principal investigator Jesse Barber, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Boise State University. (more…)

Florida Museum expands ‘A for Science’ free admission program to entire state

November 1st, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History is expanding its popular “A for Science” program statewide.

Elementary, middle and high school students in Florida who receive an ‘A’ or ‘S’ grade in science can present their latest report card for free admission to the Butterfly Rainforest with a paid regular price adult admission. Alachua County students receive their next report cards Nov. 8.

The offer is valid until the next report cards are issued. A student receiving another ‘A’ or ‘S’ grade on their next report card would again qualify for the offer through the end of the following grading period. (more…)

Florida Museum plans full weekend of activities for ButterflyFest Oct. 22-23

October 4th, 2011

Editor’s note: Complete activity, workshop schedule follows

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Discover the importance of pollinators at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s sixth annual ButterflyFest from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 22-23.

Festival visitors may enjoy free presentations on area hummingbirds, bats in the Caribbean, the practice of eating insects and hear keynote speaker and Harvard lepidopterist Naomi Pierce.

An outdoor children’s area will provide younger visitors the opportunity to stay active while participating in fun, educational activities about pollinators.

“The new outdoor children’s activity area is going to be a great place for children to learn about butterflies and different pollinators while playing games and interacting with each other,” said Florida Museum education assistant Amanda Erickson. (more…)

Florida Museum Pollinator Photo Contest entries accepted today through Sept. 9

August 22nd, 2011

Photos available

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History is accepting entries today through Sept. 9 for the third annual Pollinator Photography Contest. Winners will be announced Oct. 22 at the sixth annual ButterflyFest.

The national contest seeks to promote awareness of local pollinators through photography. All entries must include at least one pollinator, such as a bat, bee, bird, butterfly or moth.

Entry forms are available online at www.flmnh.ufl.edu/butterflyfest and at the Florida Museum of Natural History visitor services desk. Completed entries may be submitted in person at the museum or The Gainesville Sun, which is sponsoring the contest, or mailed to: Florida Museum Pollinator Photography Contest, P.O. Box 112710 Gainesville, FL 32611, or The Gainesville Sun, 2700 S.W. 13th St., Gainesville, FL 32608. (more…)

Harvard lepidopterist Naomi Pierce to speak at ButterflyFest Oct. 22-23

July 5th, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Naomi Pierce, curator of Lepidoptera at the Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology, has been scheduled as the keynote speaker for the Florida Museum of Natural History’s sixth annual ButterflyFest, Oct. 22-23.

ButterflyFest is dedicated to increasing awareness of Florida’s butterflies as fun, fascinating ambassadors to the natural world. Event activities and presentations promote inquiry and provide a call to action for the conservation and preservation of backyard wildlife and habitats.

“We are extremely excited to have Dr. Pierce as our keynote speaker this year,” said Jaret Daniels, Florida Museum assistant director of exhibits and public programs. “Not only is her research groundbreaking, but she speaks of her work with tremendous passion; a joyous intensity that can’t help but spark your interest.” (more…)

Join the Florida Museum for sixth annual ButterflyFest Oct. 22- 23

May 3rd, 2011

Photos available

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Save the date to celebrate wings and backyard things at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s sixth annual ButterflyFest Oct. 22 and 23.

The free event includes tagged Monarch releases, plant sales, special presentations and much more.

“ButterflyFest is the museum’s signature event,” said Jaret Daniels, Florida Museum assistant director of exhibits and public programs. “We hope visitors will have a fun experience and learn something about pollinators and their importance to the environment and humans.” (more…)

Fla. Museum to unveil renovated ‘Monarch Passage,’ butterfly migration videos

April 20th, 2011

Photos available

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History will unveil the newly renovated “Monarch Passage” that connects the Central Gallery to the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at 10 a.m. Saturday. (April 23)

The museum installed seven 46-inch high-definition TVs to display videos of the monarch butterfly’s overwintering colonies in Mexico. (more…)

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