Small tortoiseshell caterpillars’ self-defence

This 19 May 2016 video shows a mass of small tortoiseshell caterpillars.

They are moving, in self-defence against enemies like parasitic wasps.

Lieke Kragt from the Netherlands made this video.

New butterfly species discovery in Israel

Acentria's fritillary (Melitaea acentria), a new butterfly species discovered in Israel on the slopes of the popular Mount Hermon ski resort. Photocredit: Dr Vladimir Lukhtanov

From ScienceDaily:

New butterfly species discovered in Israel for the first time in 109 years

May 5, 2017

Summary: Little does a scientist expect to discover a new species of easy-to-see and well-studied animal, especially if it inhabits thoroughly explored areas. However, a biologist has now made a startling discovery: a new, beautiful butterfly named Acentria’s fritillary, which was spotted as it flew over the slopes of the popular Mount Hermon ski resort in northern Israel.

Vladimir Lukhtanov, entomologist and evolutionary biologist at the Zoological Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia, made a startling discovery: what people had thought was a population of a common species, turned out to be a whole new organism and, moreover — one with an interesting evolutionary history. This new species is named Acentria’s fritillary (Melitaea acentria) and was found flying right over the slopes of the popular Mount Hermon ski resort in northern Israel. It is described in the open access journal Comparative Cytogenetics.

“To me, it was a surprise that no one had already discovered it,” says Vladimir Lukhtanov.

“Thousands of people had observed and many had even photographed this beautifully coloured butterfly, yet no one recognised it as a separate species. The lepidopterists (experts in butterflies and moths) had been sure that the Hermon samples belonged to the common species called Persian fritillary (Melitaea persea), because of their similar appearance, but nobody made the effort to study their internal anatomy and DNA.”

In 2012, Vladimir Lukhtanov, together with his students, initiated an exhaustive study of Israeli butterflies using an array of modern and traditional research techniques. In 2013, Asya Novikova (until 2012, a master’s student at St. Petersburg University and, from 2013, a PhD student at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem) sampled a few fritillaries from Mt. Hermon.

It was at that time when the researchers noticed that the specimens “didn’t look right” — their genitalia appeared different from those of the typical Persian fritillary. Over the next few years, Lukhtanov and his students studied this population in-depth. They carried out sequencing DNA from the specimens and found that they had a unique molecular signature — very different from the DNA of any other fritillary.

The Acentria’s fritillary seems to be endemic in northern Israel and the neighbouring territories of Syria and Lebanon. Its evolutionary history is likely to prove interesting.

“The species is probably one of a handful of butterflies known to have arisen through hybridisation between two other species in the past,” says Lukhtanov. “This process is known to be common in plants, but scientists have only recently realised it might also be present in butterflies.”

This is the first new butterfly species discovered and described from the territory of Israel in 109 years.

Orange-tipped butterfly in the sun

This 18 April 2017 video shows a male orange-tipped butterfly in the sun.

Thea Bezemer in the Netherlands made this video.

Birds and butterflies along the Slinge river

Slinge, 24 April 2017

After 23 April 2017, on 24 April again to the Buskersbos forest and the Slinge river.

In the morning, a redstart on the top of the coniferous tree in the garden.

As we start walking, a blackcap and a great tit near the farm.

Tulips, 24 April 2017

The tulips are still there.

A pheasant calls.

In the Buskersbos, various butterflies.

Including speckled wood.

And orange tip.

And brimstone.

The grey wagtails are still present near the Borkense baan bridge.

As I walk back, near the farm a buzzard flying. And a grey heron.

A chiffchaff sings.

Sedge warbler, butterflies and flowers

Sedge warbler, 20 April 2017

After 17 April 2017 in the Westbroekse Zodden, these photos from that nature reserve are from 20 April. Like this singing sedge warbler.

This time, no yellow wagtails, only white ones.

This time, not a red kite like on 17 April; but there was a kestrel.

Green-veined white butterfly, 20 April 2017

Another animal not seen on 17 April was this butterfly: a green-veined white butterfly.

Also, a male orange tip butterfly flying around.

Slender cottongrass, 20 April 2017

Of course, the lots of slender cottongrass were still there.

Slender cottongrass, on 20 April 2017

Slender cottongrass, Westbroekse Zodden, on 20 April 2017

Lady's smock, 20 April 2017

So were lady’s smock flowers.

Marsh marigold, 20 April 2017

And marsh marigold.

Wildlife video highlights of 2016

This video shows wildlife video highlights of 2016 from the Netherlands. Including a long-eared owl, a peacock butterfly, and more.