Biodiversity Inventories

Inventory of the Lepidopteran Fauna of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba

McGuire staff members Deborah Matthews and Jacqueline Y. Miller, together with Florida Museum colleagues Roger Portell, Terry Lott, and James Toomey are investigating the Lepidopteran fauna of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. The unique dry tropical sub-montane to marsh habitats preserved on the base offer a rare opportunity to examine and compare the array of endemic and widespread lowland species and subspecies present with other Caribbean and Central American faunas. Nectar associations as well as larval host plants are also under study for specific taxonomic groups. A project database and various publications including illustrated checklists and local identification guides are in preparation. Specimens are deposited at the McGuire Center and tissue samples from representative taxa will be deposited in the Museum’s Genetic Resources Repository.

Butterfly Diversity of Rondonia, Brazil

Description coming soon.

Richness and Phenology of a Moth Community in North Central Florida

McGuire Center collection managers, the late George T. Austin and Andrei Sourakov, have been analyzing richness and phenology (seasonality) of moths fauna in North Central Florida since January 2005. About 1,100 species were collected from a single locality outside Paynes Prairie near Gainesville, Fla., during a 12-month period. Many additional species were collected in 2006. Sampling, databasing and analyzing of nearly 14,000 specimens allowed for the determination of seasonal fluctuations in species richness and relative abundance. Interesting patterns have been discovered and await publication.

Moths of North-central Florida

Surveys of the moth fauna of Paynes Prairie were initiated in 2006 by the late George T. Austin, McGuire Center collection manager. This project continues through the dedicated work of his staff, volunteers and mentored students including Matthew J. Standridge, Montana Atwater, Lukasz Barszczak, Stacey Huber and Lorraine Duerdin. Specimens are sampled, prepared and databased on a weekly basis. More than 700 moth species have been recorded from Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park and adjacent areas. Reference images of each species are being taken and prepared by Montana Atwater. Click on the image gallery below to view sample images. This site will be updated periodically as identifications are completed and additional species found at the survey sites. Images will be added and available in a searchable database format.

Species List (PDF)

Project Description (PDF)

Butterflies of Ecuador

This work at present involves two components: field work in Ecuador to continue improving our knowledge of Ecuador butterfly distribution, diversity and ecology, and taxonomic study to provide a more stable long-term classification for Ecuador’s species.

The current objectives are: 1) Conclude inventorying all important collections containing Ecuadorian butterfly material; 2) Make new collections from the most poorly known areas of the country, concentrating on areas that are particuarly rich in endemic taxa, and on rare and/or more inconspicuous taxa often overlooked in historical surveys; 3) Identify and classify all taxa known from Ecuador, and name all undescribed taxa, including those from other Andean areas if the taxonomic context is appropriate; 4) Build up extensive collections of dried and alcohol-preserved material in both Ecuador and the USA, promoting the development of a more comprehensive Ecuadorian national butterfly collection; 5) Promote understanding and appreciation of entomology and conservation in Ecuador through continuing to train research assistants and undergraduate students in techniques for butterfly collection and identification; and 6) Make results widely available on the internet as well as through traditional publication of papers in scientific journals.

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Mexican Butterflies

With over 1800 species of butterflies reported from the country, Mexico is one of the ten most butterfly-rich nations on Earth. This vast diversity is a product of Mexico’s complex geography, climate, and varied botanical communities, and includes a high degree of endemicity; approximately 15% of Mexico’s butterfly species are endemic to the country. For over three decades, researchers currently at the McGuire Center have been studying the Mexican butterfly fauna, in collaboration with researchers at Mexico’s National Autonomous University, in Mexico City, and El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, in Chetumal, Quintana Roo. This research has resulted in the discovery and description of various new species of butterflies, the compilation and publication of various state and regional lists, and has contributed a tremendous amount of new distributional information for many taxa through an ambitious databasing project.

Future planned fieldwork is scheduled in poorly known regions of Mexico, with a special focus on various endemic, undescribed species of Hesperiidae, the skipper butterflies.

For more information on Mexican butterflies, visit:

Tropical Andean Butterfly Diversity Project

The Tropical Andean Butterfly Diversity Project is an international collaboration among scientists, institutions and organizations involved in research on the butterflies of the tropical Andean region. It is a three year project funded by the United Kingdom’s Darwin Initiative. The project’s goals are to establish a foundation for future research on butterflies in the region. The project will provide resources, such as specimen databases, species lists and images, conduct training courses for students in Andean countries, and develop and publish a strategy for butterfly research and conservation in the tropical Andean region.

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Taiwan Lepidoptera Survey

This project is on-going since 1980, with numerous survey trips to investigate the Lepidoptera biodiversity of the island of Taiwan that have taken place in more than 20 years of research. Large collections continue to be made and studied, and two dozen specialists on various families are working on family treatments, under project direction of J. B. Heppner. Publications by the Association for Tropical Lepidoptera for the Taiwan Project include the basic Lepidoptera of Taiwan catalog (1992), listing over 3976 species of moths and butterflies known for Taiwan, and the first faunal synopsis (2007), illustrating in color about half of the species. Future series books will treat all the species in more detail.

Atlas of Neotropical Lepidoptera

A biodiversity summary project of the Association for Tropical Lepidoptera for the New World tropics, from the Mexican-USA border southwards, began in 1980. Under project director, J. B. Heppner, there have been completed thus far catalog parts for micro-moths, the smaller macro-moths (except Geometridae), and the butterflies (edited by Gerardo Lamas). Future catalogs will treat the remaining groups. Color synopses of the fauna of Neotropical moths and butterflies will be published as the numerous specialist authors complete their studies.

Lepidoptera of Chile

This biodiversity project will catalog and treat the moths and butterflies of Chile, a region with a limited fauna but totally restricted and isolated from the Amazonian tropical fauna. A. O. Angulo and J. Heppner are principal investigators of this project.

Lepidopterorum Catalogus

Since 1911, the Lepidopterorum Catalogus has been the premier catalog series for Lepidoptera of the world. Beginning in 1989 the series was renewed by the Association for Tropical Lepidoptera, with the completion of the world catalog for Noctuidae, with updated format and publication scheme. Since then, several other families have been completed, including the recent catalogs for Scythrididae (2007) and Andesianidae (2007). Several specialist authors are working on other catalogs. The series, edited by John Heppner, now gives full citations to published names for each family, plus notes on known hostplants, figures published, distribution of each species, a bibliography of all papers on the family, and figures of representative species.

Classification of Lepidoptera

Since 1998, John Heppner has been working on revised treatment of all families of Lepidoptera, with the publication of the first part of the classification. Additional parts are in progress. Coordinated book contracts include one for a “Manual of Lepidoptera” and for “American Lepidoptera”, both treatments at the family level.

Preliminary Survey of the Macrolepidopteran Moth Diversity of Big Cypress National Preserve

The primary objective of this study is to survey major moth families in four of the seven habitat types in Big Cypress National Preserve (BICY). The objectives of this project are to identify which moths species occur in each designated habitat type, establish a voucher and frozen tissue collection of the moths obtained during the survey, and develop an on-line searchable website. The website will illustrate diversity in the preserve with images of the moths and of their respective habitats. A synoptic moth collection will also be created and exhibited at BYCY visitor’s center. This work will allow comparing moth diversity at BYCY with this in other areas in Florida. It will also allow to evaluate efficiency of our small-scale survey techniques compared to more labor-intensive surveys of moths conducted elsewhere. Principal investigator: Jennifer Zaspel.

Biogeography and Biodiversity of the Lepidoptera of Honduras

A comprehensive inventory of the Lepidoptera of Honduras has been initiated in collaboration with Centro Zamorano de Biodiversidad, Escuela Agrícola Panamericana –Zamorano, The Lodge at Pico Bonito, and Centro Universitario Regional del Litoral Atlantico. Together with the support of taxonomic specialists at various institutions, students, research associates, and ecotourism participants, Jacqueline Miller and Deborah Matthews seek to expand our knowledge and appreciation of the faunal diversity and natural history of this country. In addition, their objectives are to provide research and reference material for current and future studies on the phylogeny, systematics, and biogeography of Lepidoptera. To date, their survey efforts have concentrated on the northern coast, while at the same time assembling data from literature records and museum specimens from areas throughout the country. Thus far, three papers have been published, including a provisional checklist with nearly 2700 taxa recorded. Three other papers are in progress. Honduras is a biodiversity hotspot and part of the Mesoamerican corridor, which was incomplete between North and South America until about 3-5.7 million years ago when a major faunal exchange began. The complex geography ranges from tropical lowlands along the northern coast and eastern tip (Moskitia) to a major block of highlands (Chortis Block), including a vast expanse of scattered isolated mountains with cloud forest and tracts of tropical dry forest. This country is thus of special interest to researchers as it exhibits a patchwork of habitats supporting some of the highest levels of biodiversity and endemism on earth.

Long Term Monitoring of Lepidoptera in the Bahamas

Since 1980, Jacqueline Miller has been monitoring butterfly populations in the West Indies and especially in the Bahamas. Through field work with her late husband, Lee, and others, seven new taxa were described and six new records discovered in the Bahamas alone. Studying insular faunas and completing comparative analyses of the species recorded presents some interesting challenges. The origin of the fauna and flora of the Caribbean Basin is very complex due to the historical geology of this area and has changed and evolved over time (Smith, et al., 1994). From the Eocene on, the proto-Greater Antilles was formed during a very complex sequence of fragmentation and accretion while the origin of the Lesser Antilles developed as a separate volcanic arc. There is geological evidence that Cuba overrode the Bahamas rise during the mid-Tertiary and the distribution of Lepidoptera in the Bahamas reflects this today.

Read full project description…