An Ecological Miracle, the Butterflies of Taiwan
Butterflies are among the most beloved of insects. If you’re fond of these winged creatures, you mustn’t miss the butterflies of Taiwan: wonderfully colorful, varied and, above all, very numerous.
In fact, they’re the main tourist attraction and the basis for the maintenance of its biodiversity. Butterflies aren’t only an aesthetic spectacle, but are invaluable to the ecosystem. These are the issues we’re going to address in this article, so don’t miss anything.
The incredible diversity of the butterflies of Taiwan
Taiwan is a small island off the east coast of China, south of Japan. It has an area of approximately 14,000 square kilometers. This small area is home to a huge number of butterflies, more than anywhere else in the world.
And it’s in Taiwan that some 400 different species of butterflies have been recorded, however the exact number isn’t known, as they’re so hard to keep track of. In addition, 55 of them are endemic, i.e. they aren’t found anywhere else in the world.
It’s thought that this incredible diversity is due to the many different types of habitats on the island of Taiwan. Ecosystems of high mountains, plains, and even tropical forests can be found here.
Which butterflies live in Taiwan?
It isn’t surprising that this island is called “the kingdom of butterflies”. Both as a tourist and scientific attraction, these Lepidoptera are undoubtedly Taiwan’s most striking phenomenon. Although it isn’t possible to describe all the species that live or migrate on the island, you’ll be able to get to know the most important families here, as we list them below.
These diurnal butterflies are characterized by their rapid flight and modified hooked antennae. More than 3,500 species and 3 subfamilies are recognized as living in Taiwan: Coeliadinae, Hesperiinae, and Pyrginae.
These are known as swallowtail butterflies, named for the shape of their wings and the elongated extension at the end. This family has 550 species and 34 of them can be found in Taiwan.
Although these butterflies are found in greater numbers in tropical Africa, Asia also contains a large part of the 1,100 species that make up this taxonomic group. Most of them are white, yellow and orange, with some black pigment.
Two subfamilies, the Coliadinae and the Pierinae, are found in Taiwan .
This family of small butterflies is characterized by the metallic-colored markings on their wings. Their color structure is vibrant and full of great contrasts, either black with red or blue or simply iridescent colors. Many of them mimic poisonous moths in their environment.
Only two species inhabit Taiwan: Abisara burnii and Dodona eugenes.
This is the second-largest butterfly – it comprises 6,000 species spread all over the world. In addition, 75% of them associate with ants, a relationship called myrmecophily. These associations can be mutualistic, parasitic or predatory, depending on the species.
This peculiar taxonomic family is the largest in existence and belongs to the superfamily Papilionoidea. It includes well-known species such as the monarch butterfly (which passes through Taiwan on its very long migration), admirals, and hawksbills. In spite of the bright colors that characterize them, the lower part of the wings usually have a withered appearance that helps them to camouflage in their environment.
Butterflies are necessary and useful
Quite often, the beauty of a place or an animal is limited to its value for tourism, since people tend to look for the most impressive-looking things in the places they visit. However, the conservation of Taiwan’s butterflies isn’t only about the aesthetic value they bring to their landscapes:
- Ecosystem value: Butterflies are indicators of air quality, as their numbers vary accordingly. They’re a key element in food chains and, of course, in the task of pollination.
- Educational value: Butterflies are essential when it comes to studying processes such as metamorphosis or migrations. Their study and the dissemination of their peculiarities are also a tool for raising awareness of the importance of biodiversity.
- Intrinsic value: This is the most important and, unfortunately, the one that’s thought of least often: butterflies have the right to exist and live in freedom.
That said, Taiwan’s butterflies aren’t without threats. The greatest danger they face is deforestation of their habitat and environmental pollution. In addition, many of them are killed on the roads during migration (as is the case of the monarch butterfly). For this reason, their conservation efforts must never cease, as they’re a vital part of the planet’s biodiversity.It might interest you...