Sunday, April 15, 2012

New butterfly species for Honduras

Last Wednesday I photographed what appears to be a first country record for Honduras of Megisto rubricata, or Red Satyr. This species is known from southwestern USA (central Arizona, central New Mexico, east Texas, and south-central Kansas), Mexico and Guatemala (1). It does not appear on the recently published Annotated List of the Lepidoptera of Honduras (2). Thus my photos indicate an extension of the known range for Red Satyr.

I found this individual on Cerro de Hula, a mountain about 12 km south of the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital. The elevation there is 1630 masl, and I found it on a grassy slope, in farmland with scattered oaks and harvested corn fields.

Its NatureServe Global Status is Secure - Common: widespread and abundant (1). Here in Honduras, at the edge of its range, it is likely uncommon.

In the field, I did not realize the rarity of this observation, and thus did not collect the specimen. The photos, however, appear to be sufficient for identification to species level. 

Photo documentation, while long accepted for verifying rare bird sightings, is just starting to gain acceptance in the entomology community. An ambitious 'new' project, of which I am proud to be a contributor, is Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA). It is somewhat similar to eBird, in that it collects distributional records submitted by professionals and amateurs alike, though a major difference is that each record requires photo documentation, which is then reviewed by a regional expert. 

I know many birders also enjoy butterflying, and I would encourage anyone with an interest in butterfly conservation to photograph the butterfies and moths they see in the field, and to submit their documentation to BAMONA. Your sightings will help expand knowledge of Lepidoptera, and may serve to document range extensions, as in this particular case for Red Satyr.


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