In contrast to refined and polished presentations on North American BOA pages, this part of the website is extremely rough. In fact, it has been barely touched by humans. Computers assembled these web pages using the database of type specimens prepared by the Tropical Andean Butterfly Diversity Project (TABDP) and a vast image collection of butterfly types amassed by Gerardo Lamas with contributions from others. On "regular" BOA pages we try to curate every word and every image. Every photograph is diligently tweaked and cropped to make it look its best. Taxonomy is carefully adjusted on the basis of the latest publications and our own research. We are familiar with the territory and most of the 5,000 species, subspecies and undescribed geographic segregates inhabiting it.
The situation with South America is quite different. From Mexico to Patagonia, the number of taxa almost triples. With close to 14,000 entities, many of which have not been formally named, it becomes very hard to catch up. However, butterfly enthusiasts have become more and more interested in South America. Intrigued by the diversity of habitats and butterflies and exotic tropics in general, people are looking for resources to help with identification. Such resources are very scarce. And not because there is lack of interest, but objectively, butterflies in this part of the world are known much less, and a lot more work is needed to catalogue and describe all their forms and varieties.
Luckily, a fundamental breakthrough was the Checklist of Neotropical Butterflies published in 2004. This long-term project spearheaded by Gerardo Lamas resulted in an excellent compilation of available taxonomic hypotheses by the leaders in the field for each family of butterflies. The availability of such a checklist made possible another recent international initiative, The Tropical Andean Butterfly Diversity Project, a collaboration between American (North and South) and European researchers. One of TABDP's primary goals was to digitize tropical Andean butterfly specimen locality data from multiple collections. To this end, a database was designed that also contained images of taxa to help identification of specimens by non-specialists. Early in the project it became apparent that by far the most rapid approach to obtaining images for the database was to scan an already virtually comprehensive collection of images of neotropical butterfly taxa, that assembled by Gerardo Lamas in Lima. Over a lifetime of research, Gerardo Lamas photographed almost all extant primary type specimens of neotropical butterflies as the basis for studies into the checklist. These print photographs were therefore scanned and partly databased by TABDP, for all groups except Dismorphiinae, Ithomiini and Hesperiidae, for which we are now seeking additional funding . Obviously, scans from prints are different in quality from modern digital photos. However, they represent a unique lifetime collection, diligently and ingeniously assembled to tell the story of butterfly names and organisms behind them. The intent behind scanning the prints was to make them available to researchers across the globe. The scans may be viewed as illustrations to the Lamas 2004 catalogue.
Two routes can be envisioned in making these materials available to the world. First, each image can be carefully corrected and restored to make it look its best, all the data double checked and errors eliminated. However, with close to 30,000 images, this process will take several years. Alternatively, the image collection can be presented "as is", without much manual work, with errors in data, and be made available for researchers, so the checklist may be adjusted along the way and images corrected or replaced. It seems like the latter route might be beneficial. There is an enormous value in quick ability to consult (possible) type specimens behind the names.
BOA collaborated with TABDP to produce a rather refined, but almost entirely computational compilation of the images. Not much expert checking has taken place. The scripts to produce the web pages are almost bug free, but various errors in databasing and matching the data to specimens may result in incorrect information being presented. Thus, please consider this as the first "baby" step into South America. However, we believe that it is a groundbreaking step. Never in the history of mankind has there been a single source that shows essentially all extant types for Neotropical Butterfly species, neither in print, nor online. We feel privileged and proud to present this compilation, and are very grateful to Gerardo Lamas for his generosity. A few cautionary remarks are in order:
Comments? Questions? Flames? Email us.