The Butterflies of Greece, by Lazaros N. Pamperis
We are told that the author has spent 14 years studying the 232 species of butterfly that regularly occur in Greece. He has taken all 1174 photos himself while working in 1169 different localities. This massive work is obviously a labour of love. These days modern regional works on butterflies tend to follow a general formula; i.e. a brief introduction to butterfly biology, a series of species descriptions and a collection of plates of set specimens or half specimens at the end. This work is an interesting deviation from this formula in that the book is based on photographs of live specimens. This gives the book an added dimension of beauty. There is no doubt that this book with its wonderful colour photos on nearly every page is far more visually attractive than most comparable works. However for those primarily interested in identification having to turn several pages to compare similar species will be annoying, and I suspect some will find identifying from the photos more difficult than from conventional plates. It is a large world though and I think a little variation now and then is healthy.
Nearly every species has two pages devoted to it, mostly comprised of photographs. The text includes a morphological description of the adult and notes on similar species, flight period, distribution, ecology and status. Surprisingly, apart from the occasional photo, no mention is made of the larvae or their food plants, though for some species, particularly the common Nymphalids, mention is made of where the females lay their eggs. This is a major break from tradition that will inevitably annoy many readers. An interesting addition is a little bar graph for each species indicating the number of localities, sorted by geographical altitude, from which it has been recorded. From this we can see that the two rarest species in Greece are Maniola halicarnassus and Zizeeria karsandra both of which are only known from a single location, and that the commonest species is Polyommatus icarus which occurs in 402 localities ranging from 0 to 2600 feet in altitude.
Scattered here and there are a number of beautiful photos of scenery and some lovely lilies. All in all this is a very lovely if unusual book which I expect every lepidopterist in Europe will want to own. I am certainly pleased to have my copy. The fact that the author insists on referring to Maniola jurtina as Maniola jurdina on every occasion will I hope not cause any trouble to anyone, it could just be a typo that has manifested throughout. There are other taxonomic variables that are more a result of a failure of the lepidopterist world to fully agree on some matters of classification, however it should be remembered that names change.
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