A Masterpiece Five Years in the Making: Butterfly Fauna of Taiwan Compendium Published in English and Chinese

Taiwan is known as the “Butterfly Kingdom” due to its unique geographical environment and wealth of diverse biological resources. To let the public and the world learn about Taiwan’s precious butterfly resources and scientific research achievements, the Forestry Bureau has been working with Professor Hsu Yu-Feng of National Taiwan Normal University to compile the complete set of Butterfly Fauna of Taiwan since 2018—from the first volume on Papilionidae, the second volume on Pieridae, the third volume on Hesperiidae, the fourth volume on Lycaenidae, to the last volume on Nymphalidae (Text and Plates versions), which was published this year (2022). Butterfly enthusiasts can finally have a complete field guide collection of information on all the butterfly species in Taiwan in both English and Chinese.
Taiwan’s biogeographical distribution region is located at the junction of the Indomalayan realm and Palearctic realm. Its special geographical location, coupled with the diverse topographic variations, has led to the development of various types of ecosystems, and therefore has a high proportion of endemic species. The Butterfly Fauna of Taiwan compendium is a five-volume, six-book set on Papilionidae, Pieridae, Hesperiidae, Lycaenidae, and Nymphalidae (both Text and Plates versions), with 39, 41, 69, 126, and 154 species of butterflies in the respective families, and a total of 429 butterfly species. The Forestry Bureau said that in general, exotic species and unidentified species are not included in biota compendiums, but 42 species of exotic species, unidentified species, and non-endemic species have been specifically included in this collection, differing from other publications.
The Forestry Bureau pointed out that this book set, completed by domestic scholars, can be considered a milestone in butterfly research in Taiwan, and it has also inspired Japan to complete their national butterfly compendium. Although there are many butterfly researchers in Japan, no Japanese butterfly compendium has been published so far. In the past, almost all the butterfly research in Taiwan had been led by the Japanese, and they have even published monographs on butterfly research in Taiwan, but now finally a Taiwanese team has completed the compilation of the Butterfly Fauna of Taiwan. Even more pleasingly, the latest classification system of the compendium has been made available to the members of the Butterfly Society of Japan. The publication has also attracted the attention of many overseas butterfly research institutions, who have made many inquiries.
According to the Forestry Bureau, the book set took five years to compile, but the preparation time took as long as 15 years. After Professor Hsu Yu-Feng took on this difficult mission, he began to collect historical literature to determine the countries and locations where the holotype specimens of various butterfly species were stored. In particular, many butterfly holotype specimens of Taiwan were scattered around in three countries: England, Germany, and Japan. The team made several visits to collect the holotype specimens and information back home.
In addition to accumulating nearly 20 years of butterfly research literature, Professor Hsu Yu-Feng also trained graduate students to form teams to carry out historical data search and comparison, sample collection, and dissection. The team compiling this publication consisted of six people. It took a huge amount of manpower and time just verifying the same butterfly species with different names. Take for example the “iacintha,” a continental subspecies of the common eggfly that eats sweet potato leaves, was misspelled as “jacintha” by later scholars in 1837 after it was first named in 1773, and had been erroneously used for more than a century. It was only in this publication that it has finally been properly named and its almost unknown history revealed. Another challenge was the acquisition of samples. The anatomical structure of the butterfly genitalia is required to compile a butterfly compendium; however, some butterfly species were never again recorded or collected after the destruction of their habitats due to the 1999 Chi-Chi earthquake, and no samples for dissection could be found. This was the case of Euthalia malapana. Fortunately, when an amateur butterfly researcher heard that Professor Hsu was compiling the Butterfly Fauna of Taiwan, he selflessly donated the only specimen he had collected years ago for dissection, thus solving the dilemma of having no images available.
The Forestry Bureau said that this compendium is in both English and Chinese, and will be updated and supplemented with the latest information after the model of The Avifauna of Taiwan, and will be produced as an e-book for uploading to the Internet, so that butterfly researchers all over the world can access it online for reference.
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