Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Accidental Tourists (Photo Heavy)

Mary and I hadn't planned to visit the Florida Museum of Natural History and its Butterfly Rainforest on Monday. Our trip to Gainesville had been medical in nature, but that part hadn't gone quite as planned. Lesson learned: Next time I will not only tell the referring doctor about recent prior workups, but I will also let the doctor to whom we're being referred know of prior workups in advance. The difference: the referring doctor did not recognize that he was ordering a duplication of effort (and expense), despite my voiced concerns. The other doctor followed up my concerns and validated them.

So, we had a free day in Gainesville, rather than a full day of testing. And visiting the museum had been on Mary's and my To Do list -- just not for Monday.

Suffice it to say, we needed a vacation day. We grabbed the opportunity to schmooze with butterflies and take a great tour of the museum's fossils exhibit, courtesy of docent George Edwards. This is the same museum that had sponsored the Tapir Challenge dig I'd volunteered at back in 2006.

Photos follow.

Entrance to the museum, with a butterfly plant sale outside.

Clipper (Parthenos sylvia). Range is Southeast Asia. Wing span is 4.25 inches.

Tropical Blue Wave (Myscelia cyaniris). Range is Central and South America. Wingspan is 3 inches.

Birdwing (Troides rhadamanthus). Range is Southeast Asia. Wingspan is 6 inches.

Brown Siproeta (Siproeta epaphus). Range is Central and South America. Wingspan is 3.5 inches.

Great Egg Fly (Hypolimnas bolina). Range is Southeast Asia. Wingspan is 4 inches.

Tree Nymph (Idea leuconoe). Range is Southeast Asia. Wingspan is 6 inches.

The rainforest's pièce de resistance, the Blue Morpho (Morpho peleides). Range is Central and South America. Wingspan is 7.5 inches. When I saw this beauty I immediately thought of the Ulysses Butterfly that I had seen in the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary in Kuranda, back in 1991. Monday's visit marks the first time I'd been to a butterfly sanctuary since then.

I was able to identify the butterflies above thanks to a laminated guide available to visitors, and which I had photographed so that I could look the species up at home. But the guide contains only a few of the many species I saw there. I have yet to determine what these (and more) are:

Feeding stations throughout the rainforest provided plenty of cantaloupe:

I recognize three species here: the Owl Butterfly (two in the rear, with the big eye spots), Blue Morpho (unlike its bright blue dorsal side, the ventral underside of the wings has a series of round spots), and a Clipper in the foreground.

The sanctuary also held carp, turtles, lizards, and several bird species, including zebra and spice finches and button quail. We had benches to sit on, which we both much appreciated especially toward the end of the day. And it was neat being "buzzed" by all these butterflies and birds, because something was always happening in the air.

The Wall of Wings lay just outside the sanctuary, with boxed specimens from throughout the world. Here's a small section:

From the Florida Museum of Natural History website: "The McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity serves both research and public education functions. The center includes the living Butterfly Rainforest and exhibit space that features information about Lepidoptera and rainforests worldwide, as well as 39,000 square feet of research laboratories and collection space."

Butterflies are bred here. Below is a Birdwing among pupae:

Collectors preserve individuals that have passed.  Other collections come here as well:

You can see the full photoset, with even more species, here.

Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other Journeys
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