The Butterflies of Venezuela, Part 1 , by Andrew F. E. Neild
This beautiful volume has joined the ranks of high quality regional works which are pushing back the boundaries of our knowledge of the distribution and biology of butterflies of the world by supplying those interested with excellent identification guides.
Definitively this is a beautiful book, reflecting the authors extensive knowledge of his subject. Bernard D'Abrera's plates are immaculate as usual, though they appear slightly cramped. Focusing as it does on a smaller number of species than many comparable works it is able to look at them in greater detail. In may cases dorsal and ventral aspects are figured for several subspecies as well as for the nominate form.
Andrew's text is often extensive in its discussion of identification, treating subspecies very seriously. This will undoubtedly be of great value to future collectors and visitors to Venezuela. As well as the description of each species, information is given on : Range; Subspecies; Habitat; and Foodplants. All too often this last category is an 'unknown', indicating the poor state of ecological research on the South American butterfly fauna. Undoubtedly the other insect orders are even less well studied but this caveat will bring no joy to lepidopterists. Each specimen featured, is labelled beneath with its name, sex and aspect, and type material is indicated as such.
This work includes a 28 page introduction to butterfly biology with special reference to Venezuela. I was impressed by the effort Andrew has made to explain classification to those unfamiliar with it, though I could not help wondering what percentage of the readership of this, a £75 pound book, will be unfamiliar with the basics of classification. Perhaps more usefully to most of the readers the introduction also includes a very pertinent guide on how to go about getting permission to collect in Venezuela, a country which has a healthy if not brilliantly focused desire to protect its fauna.
The book also includes 3 appendices 1) Data for Type of new taxa, 2) Data for figured specimens, and 3) Systematic checklist of species covered in this work, as well as a Glossary, a small but relevent Bibliography, an Index of species and a 'Gazetteer of Collecting Localities'.
Andrew Neild states that this is the first of 4 volumes which will deal with 900+ species and which will not include the Lycaenidae, Riodinidae or Hesperidae. This means that these four volumes will cover less than half the species to be found in the area. At a total price of 320+ pounds for the set I worry that these excellent books will be beyond the finances of many libraries that could usefully house
All in all an excellent addition to the literature, I just wish I could get to Venezuela to make use of my copy.
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