Delias alberti tetamba from Guadalcanal. May 28, 2014 9:36:52 GMT -8 trehopr1 and terry2014 like this
Post by nomad on May 28, 2014 9:36:52 GMT -8
Delias alberti tetamba female. Collected by Laurie Wills, Summit Ridge Mount Popomanaseu, Guadalcanal - 2300 meters. Ex collection Jens Jakusch ( Aureus Butterflies). Seen at Modena but not forgotten.
Delias alberti ( Rothschild 1904 ) is a beautiful and rare Delias species that was discovered by A. S. Meek and A.F. Eichhorn on the north coast of Choiseul in 1903. Half a century later in 1953, William Brandt discovered D. alberti subspecies guava high in the mountains of Bougainville . D. alberti have not been collected in those localities since the original captures. In 1965, a Royal Society expedition discovered a new subspecies D. alberti tetamba on Santa Isabel. Males of the new subspecies tetamba were apparently taken in lowland secondary forest at the village of Tatamba by native collectors in their gardens . Here they also took a series of the rare Delias messalina orientalis. Both were described by Ramnik Arora of the BMNH in 1983. The 1965 Royal Society expedition also visited Mount Popomanaseu on Guadalcanal a few days later and here they took a specimen of D. messalina orientalis.
In 1996, John Tennent led an Imperial college of London expedition to the remote summit area of Mount Popomanaseu on Guadalcanal to search for another enigmatic butterfly Tiradelphe schneideri of the Danainae family. Two females of T. schneideri had been previously taken by the 1965 Royal Society expedition and the aim was discover the male. No further specimens of Triadelphe schneideri were captured during the Tennent expedition, however flying around the summit area at 2300 meters were a number of Delias alberti tetamba and a good series of both sexes were taken. Delias alberti was flying with smaller numbers of the equally beautiful Delias messalina orientalis and this butterfly was also captured. Most of the rare Delias were seen flying high around the canopy where they were seen feeding at flowers.
In 1997, John Tennent explored the original locality on the coast at Tatamba on Santa Isabel for both Delias alberti tetamba and D. messialina orientalis but found neither species. In his Butterflies of the Solomon Islands ( 2002) John Tennent mentioned that this lowland habitat at Tatamba seemed quite unsuitable. It seemed highly unlikely that the high montane Delias of Guadalcanal would have occurred in the lowland secondary forest at Tatamba.
It is known the collecting of butterflies was just a small part of the original 1965 Royal Society expedition and they had no specialist lepidopterist with them. The butterflies of the Royal Society expedition were stored away in the BMNH till Arora had a good look at the butterfly captures in the early 1980s. It seems that there was probably a mix up of the specimen data labels. Leaving Santa Isabel the 1965 expedition were soon high on Mount Popomanaseu collecting where both D. alberti and D messialina were later refound by John Tennent. It seems highly likely all the specimens of D. alberti and D. messalina collected in 1965 may have been captured on Guadalcanal in the high montane forest of Mount Popomanaseu. The lepidopterist David Hall has also visited Tatamba on Santa Isabel and again saw neither Delias species. If the Tatamba locality is a bogus one then Delias alberti tetamba would seem to have a highly inappropriate sub-specific name. The higher mountains of Santa Isabel have been little explored and there is a very good possibility that these montane Delias, perhaps even new subspecies will be found there.
I have mentioned that the nominate Delias alberti has yet to be refound on Choiseul. Because of the very hostile natives Meek could only collect in the lowland areas and it was here that he took a long series of the nominate [ Perhaps reaching 500 meters). So dangerous were the Choiseul natives that Meek kept a boat off shore to evacuate the collecting party in case of danger. I have read there has been much logging of the forests and the planting of Oil plantations in the North of Choiseul where Meek encountered D. alberti.
These remote Solomon Island Mountains are hard to access except by helicopter. The terrain is very rugged and unforgiving. Over zealous and sometimes dangerous landowners demanding high payment are just a few of the many hazards that collectors have to face to capture butterflies in the region.
Any one interested further in the two remarkable Delias species messalina orientalis and alberti tetamba should join the Face book Delias of the World group where a selection of photographs can be found of the habitat of both species and further remarkable images of the capture of these two super rare beauties in the field, courtesy of course of Laurie Wills. Laurie was the first intrepid butterfly collector to attain the summit of Mount Popmanaseu since John Tennent and his colleagues did so during 1996 expedition.