Jan 19
Photo of a Sinai baton blue

Sinai baton blue (Pseudophilotes sinaicus)

Species: Sinai baton blue (Pseudophilotes sinaicus)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: The Sinai baton blue is thought to be the smallest butterfly in the world, with a wingspan of just six to nine millimetres.

The Sinai baton blue is restricted to one tiny, mountainous, arid area in southern Sinai, Egypt, where its entire world population occupies a mere seven square kilometres. Both the adults and caterpillars feed almost exclusively on Sinai thyme (Thymus decussatus). The caterpillars of this species are sometimes tended by ants, in return secreting sugary droplets which the ants consume. The Sinai baton blue caterpillars pupate in the soil beneath their host plant over winter, emerging as adults between May and mid-June.

The Sinai baton blue is under threat from climate change, which may further reduce its already limited habitat. It is also vulnerable to human disturbance and the collection of its host plant for medicinal purposes. Fortunately, this tiny butterfly occurs entirely within the St Katherine Protectorate, where efforts are underway to protect both the butterfly and its host plant. Action is also being taken to increase public awareness of the Sinai baton blue, which is considered to be a flagship species for the area.

Find out more about the conservation of the Sinai baton blue at the Sinai Baton Blue Butterfly Conservation Project.

See more images of the Sinai baton blue on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Oct 10

Here in the Northern Hemisphere autumn has well and truly hit us and we are moving fast heading towards winter. As leaves change colour and fall from the trees, many creatures are beginning their preparation for hibernation and birds are embarking on their seasonal migrations to warmer climes. Across the globe many species rely on seasonal changes in weather to signal the next stage in their life cycle, such as hibernation, migration, blooming or molting. Although all organisms go through natural lifecycles, the study of seasonal cycling is unique and scientists refer to it as phenology.

What is phenology?

By definition, phenology is the study of how seasonal and climatic changes influence natural cycles. Not only can phenology provide valuable clues to the lifecycles of individual species, it can also highlight the importance of relationships between species. For example, insects such as honey bees must carefully time their spring emergence with the blooming of flowers, which they rely upon to provide nectar and pollen.

Honey bee photo

Come spring time, honey bees rely on blooming plants for food, while the plants rely upon the bees for pollination

 

Why study phenology?

Although phenology seems like something that is just observed and not studied, it is actually very valuable to research phenological patterns. Understanding phenology can allow scientists to make comparisons to see if a community is healthy and following normal cycles. Phenology can also aid conservation efforts, for example by calculating the timing and migration routes of the North Atlantic right whale, the species can be protected appropriately throughout its range at different times of year.

North Atlantic right whale photo

Conservation measures to protect the North Atlantic right whale include regulations in the US to restrict the use of certain types of fishing gear in specific areas at times when the whales are present

 

What triggers seasonal changes in nature?

One well-known sign that the seasons are changing is the difference in temperature throughout the year, but there are other indicators that may not be as well known. For example, the Caspian seal relies on the presence of ice formations in the Caspian Sea to trigger its seasonal migration to different locations, while the Critically Endangered black-eared mantella gets its signal to start the breeding season from seasonal fluctuations in rainfall.

Caspian seal photo

The Caspian seal relies on change in ice formation to jump-start its migration

Black-eared mantella photo

The black-eared mantella begins breeding at the arrival of the seasonal rains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How can climate change affect phenology?

Climate change can have a negative effect on species that follow phenological patterns. For example, unusual seasonal droughts in the Namib Desert in southern Africa were followed by large declines in quiver tree numbers, which scientists believe to be the result of drought stress. Climate change can also effect species’ reproductive cycles, for example the loggerhead turtle comes ashore to lay its eggs in the summer when the odds of the young surviving are at their highest. Changes in climate patterns are likely to shift this cycle, putting the eggs and young at risk.

Loggerhead turtle photo

Climate change could cause this young loggerhead turtle to hatch too early or too late in the season

Butterflies and blooms education resource

Related education resource

Learn more about phenology with our creative Butterflies and Blooms education resource. Check it out on the ARKive Education pages, and help your students to discover the relationship between the butterflies of Wisconsin’s Northwoods and the springtime flowers they depend upon.

Christin Knesel, Intern, Wildscreen USA

Jul 16

For the next three weeks, members of the public across the UK have the chance to get involved in the big butterfly count, a nationwide survey which will help to indicate not only the status of the UK’s butterfly populations, but also the health of our environment in general. As butterflies are particularly sensitive to environmental changes, butterfly declines can provide an important early warning system for other potential impacts on our wildlife.

With the UK having been subjected to unseasonably heavy rain over the last few months, conservationists are concerned that butterfly species may be struggling this year and therefore the count is more important than ever. Around 34,000 people took part in the big butterfly count 2011, and this year the organisers hope to make it even bigger.

If you would like to take part simply head over to the big butterfly count website, download an ID chart and spend 15 minutes recording the species you see in your garden, local park, woodland or field. Then all you need to do is submit your sightings online. Who knows, you might be lucky enough to spot some of these beauties…

Green hairstreak

Green hairstreak photo

Named after the white ‘streak’ across the fore- and hindwings, the wings of the green hairstreak are actually are dull brown on the uppersides, but bright green on the underside. The pupae of this species produce audible squeaks to attract ants, which are then thought to bury the pupae where they will hibernate until the following spring.

Six-spot burnet moth

Six-spot burnet moth photo

The six-spot burnet moth feeds on the nectar of a large range of flowers, with wild thyme being a particular favourite. A brightly coloured day-flying moth, the name is somewhat of a misnomer as the number of spots can vary between individuals, and spots may be fused in some cases.

Large white

Large white photo

A widespread and common species, the large white is the biggest of the white butterflies found in the UK, with a wingspan of up to 7cm. Females can be distinguished from males by the two black spots and a black streak on the fore-wings. The colourful caterpillars of this species consume mustard oils in their diet, making them very distasteful to birds.

Red admiral

Red admiral photo

A migratory species, red admiral adults emerge after hibernation in the UK between January and March, and are joined by butterflies that have travelled from North Africa and southern Europe between May and August. Adults are often seen in gardens feeding on nectar or rotten fruit.

Common blue

Common blue photo

The common blue is the most widespread of the blue butterflies in Britain. While the males are a striking bluish-violet, the females are more brown in colour, with orange spots near the margins of the wings. Favouring sunny, sheltered areas, the common blue is typically seen in woodland clearings, coastal dunes, road verges and cemeteries.

Speckled wood

Speckled wood photo

A common woodland butterfly, the speckled wood has numerous eye-spots on its wings. The male tends to perch in patches of sunlight, intercepting intruding butterflies. Males may also patrol an area in search of females, who lay single eggs on blades of grass after mating.

Brimstone

Brimstone photo

While the female brimstone is a greenish-white colour, the male is bright yellow and it is widely believed that this species was the inspiration for the name ‘butterfly’. This species has a very long proboscis, and can exploit flowers with very deep nectarines, including runner bean flowers and teasels.

Small tortoiseshell

Small tortoiseshell photo

A beautifully patterned butterfly, the small tortoiseshell has wings comprising black patches, areas of bright yellowish-orange and a fringe of blue spots, making this species instantly recognisable. The caterpillars feed on nettles and are common in areas of human activity.

Meadow brown

Meadow brown photo

A dark brown species with an eye-spot on each wing, the female meadow brown can be distinguished from the male by the presence of an orange patch on the forewings. Although found in a range of habitats, this species has suffered as a result of the decline in the extent of hay meadows in Britain.

Peacock butterfly

Peacock butterfly photo

One of the most beautiful butterflies in the UK, the peacock butterfly earns its name from the stunning eyespots on the wings which frighten predators, or divert birds from attacking the body. Males and females are similar in appearance but the males are slightly smaller and will defend territories in sunny locations, chasing any females that pass by.

If you do to take part over the coming weeks we would love to hear how you get on, why not leave a comment below and let us know what species you have seen, or get in touch via Facebook or Twitter?

And for those of you outside of the UK, what species can you find in your local area? Do you have any favourites? Let us know!

Claire Lewis, ARKive Media Researcher

Jan 1

It’s that time of year again, the turkey supply has been exhausted, the sales have been ransacked and the festive celebrations are nearly over! But fear not, we are here to inspire some New Year cheer and get you in the mood to tackle 2012 head on, starting with planning those New Year’s resolutions!

Photo of American black bear scratching head

In need of some help with your New Year's resolutions?

 

Work on that waistline

After all the overindulgence of the festive period, one of the most popular resolutions has got to be to lose a little weight. This can be hard to master on cold winter nights, so we suggest you look to the dedicated emperor penguin for a little guidance. Emperor penguins are the only bird species to brave the bitter Antarctic winter, with males enduring the constant darkness of the winter months in order to incubate their egg.

Photo of emperor penguin adult and chick walking along ice

Emperor penguin males lose up to 50% of their body weight while incubating their egg

This often results in the males losing as much as half of their body weight – more through necessity than choice, but still a stunning example of how hard work and endurance pay off!

Get fighting fit

If dieting is not your thing, why not knock lethargy on its head this New Year and get fit. Take a leaf out of the spinner dolphin’s book, this acrobatic mammal can be seen leaping from the water and spinning through the air in tropical seas worldwide. If spinning isn’t your idea of a good time, why not try your hand at some of the other activities enjoyed by our animal assembly including sprinting, long distance running, diving or boxing?

Photo of spinner dolphin leaping and spinning

Spinner dolphins are certainly not lacking in energy!

 

Break down your language barrier

¿Por qué no aprender un nuevo idioma? Or for those not familiar with Spanish – why not learn a new language? This is a resolution that I think would be endorsed by the Albert’s lyrebird, who has a spectacular array of sounds in its arsenal, developed due to the awesome ability to accurately mimic other species.

Photo of Albert's lyrebird male displaying and calling

Why not learn a new language?

 

Looking for love?

If the festive spirit has left you feeling romantic then why not look for love in 2012, but do spare a thought for the animals that put their life on the line to do the same. Male ladybird spiders have to tread carefully when approaching the burrow of a prospective female in order to correctly pluck the trip wires surrounding the burrow entrance. One wrong move and the female may mistake him for her next meal!

Photo of male and female ladybird spiders with egg sac

The male ladybird spider (right) has to be careful not to end up as dinner!

 

Give a helping hand

As social beings we tend to gain satisfaction from helping others, whether by volunteering our time or donating our resources. In biological terms this is known as a mutualistic relationship and there are plenty of examples of this in nature. The fanged pitcher plant has a mutualistic relationship with a particular species of ant which forms nests in the hollow tendrils of the plant. The ant is able to traverse the inner walls of the pitcher plant without falling in and being digested by the plant and is even able to safely hunt in the pitcher fluid.

Close up photo of a pitcher of the fanged pitcher plant

The fanged pitcher plant happily houses ants in return for a favour

In return the ant removes large prey items from the pitcher fluid. If left they would begin to decay before they were digested, which could be detrimental to the pitcher plant – win win I’d say!

Out with the old and in with the new!

What better time of year to embark on a spring clean; delve through those drawers and finally get to the back of that wardrobe. Everyone feels better after a good tidy up and it seems that this is not restricted to just us humans, the Vogelkop bowerbird also likes to maintain a tidy living space. The males pay meticulous attention to the position of each of the decorations within their conical bower, as after all, no self-respecting female bowerbird is going to choose a male with an unkempt bower.

Photo of male Vogelkop bowerbird in bower arranging ornaments

The male Vogelkop bowerbird likes to keep his bower neat and tidy

 

Got itchy feet?

The world is a fascinating place with scores of spectacular sights to see, meaning travel is an increasingly popular aspiration. There are many epic journeys occurring in the animal kingdom annually, and it’s not only birds and mammals that migrate. The monarch butterfly makes one of the largest invertebrate migrations, covering distances as great as 3,000 miles to their wintering grounds.

Photo of large numbers of monarch butterflies in flight

Monarch butterflies undertake massive annual migrations - where will you go?

This doesn’t mean you have to travel hundreds of miles to discover something new of course. Why not uncover some hidden treasures closer to home, see what can be found near you using Search by Geography.

 

Good luck with any resolutions made, from all here at ARKive we wish you a very Happy New Year!

Laura Sutherland, ARKive Education Officer

Sep 30
Queen Alexandra’s birdwing photo

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing

Species: Queen Alexandra’s birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: Queen Alexandra’s birdwing is the world’s largest species of butterfly

With an enormous wingspan of up to 28 centimetres, Queen Alexandra’s birdwing deservedly has the title of the world’s largest butterfly. Vibrantly coloured, this magnificent butterfly feeds only from a single species of vine. The vine contains a toxic substance which, when consumed by the caterpillar, makes them distasteful to potential predators. This trait is advertised by the caterpillar’s bright, conspicuous colouration, but if consumed by a naive predator, the toxin may cause severe vomiting. The adult Queen Alexandra’s birdwing feeds on the flowers of the same vine.

As one of the world’s most beautiful butterflies, Queen Alexandra’s birdwing is extremely attractive to collectors. Fetching thousands of dollars per butterfly, this rare species has suffered severely from over harvesting. This species is now protected from collectors, though it is still targeted illegally. Presently, the main threat to this butterfly species is the loss of its lowland rainforest habitat.

For more information on Queen Alexandra’s birdwing, visit the Natural History Museum website.

View images of Queen Alexandra’s birdwing on ARKive.

For more information on Endangered species, visit our new Endangered species pages.

Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author

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