Monday, January 09, 2006

Moths of La Selva, Cost Rica

There are an estimated 200-300,000 species of moths on earth. Some are among the most spectacular creatures you could ever imagine with electric colors that don't seem like they could be natural. The times I have spent in the collections of Harvard University and the American Museum of Natural History have been times of wonderful discovery. Each new specimen drawer yielding something new and exciting to me. I worked in the lab of Dr. David Wagner at the University of CT and assisted in several biological inventories of rare habitats with him. There is nothing like a humid night in the summer running the Mercury Vapor Lamps with hundreds of insects clinging to the white sheet. In the tropics the sheet might have so many insects that you can't see the sheet anymore.

Dave Wagner has done some fieldwork in Costa Rica at La Selva Biological Research Station studying the Lepidoptera. He has an online checklist of some of the species that he's come across during his trips there. The database section has a pulldown menu to select families of moths. Start with the Arctiidae (Tiger Moths) and the Saturniidae (Giant Silk Moths) and then explore some of the other families. I hope you are struck with the incredible diversity. Dave thinks the final list may include up to 7000 species from La Selva alone.

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