September 2012: A recent Appleyard Fund grantee

Published on 3rd September 2012

A recent Appleyard Fund grantee

Milne Bay Province

The Linnean Society was one of a number of funding bodies supporting John Tennent FLS in his project entitled ‘Butterflies of the D’Entrecasteaux, Trobriand and Louisiade Islands, Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea’.

Milne Bay Province (MBP) is in the easternmost province of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and comprises numerous islands ranging from large mountainous ones through isolated low-lying coral atolls and rocky islets rising steeply from the Pacific Ocean, with distinct areas of butterfly endemism, but for most of which, data on butterfly diversity are entirely lacking.

This ambitious project aimed to make an inventory of MBP island butterflies. Getting a research visa from the Government of PNG was the first hurdle, and took over two-and-a-half years. The first phase of fieldwork then took place in 2010, with visits to 76 islands, with a follow-up visit in 2011-12, bringing the total to 181 islands. Islands names presented another challenge, as maps and charts for the region often disagree, so a comprehensive gazetteer of names and their alternatives is in preparation.

some islands where very few or no butterflies were seen

An unexpectedly high volume of new distributional information was obtained and it is planned to present these data in a comprehensive book as well as in scientific papers, discussing regional biogeography and other factors relating to butterfly distribution. While some islands proved to have relatively high numbers of butterfly species, there were some islands where very few or no butterflies were seen, for reasons that remain unclear, despite apparently ideal conditions. Voucher specimens of the more difficult groups (i.e. easily identifiable and/or widespread species were not generally collected) are being deposited in the Natural History Museum, London.