Butterflies of Victoria
Butterflies of Victoria
There are 143 butterfly species known in Victoria. Some are quite localised in just a few districts, while others are much more widespread. This class project will introduce students to Bioinformatics while providing them with an understanding of the biodiversity and environmental requirements of a fascinating part of Australia's wildlife.
The project can be easily organised by allocating one species of butterfly to each student to research through the Bioinformatics database, and supplementing this with additional information from library resources. When the students have finished their research, the results could be presented as short individual reports on each butterfly species, and then summarised as a class poster or publication on the butterflies of Victoria.
Scroll down until you come to the Genus and Species names. This shows the scientific names of all 143 Victorian butterflies on this database. Choose one butterfly species for each member of the class to research.
Enter the name of each butterfly you have chosen (one at a time, please!) and you will obtain a detailed account of its lineage (from kingdom, through phylum, class, order, family, genus, species, etc).
Would you like to know what the close relatives of your butterfly are?
Enter the generic name of each butterfly you have chosen (again, one at a time, please!) and you will obtain a list of Victorian butterflies which are close relatives of the one you have chosen. The generic name of your butterfly is the first word of the scientific name eg. Antipodia chaostola (the Chaostola Skipper).
To find out whether your butterfly occurs in your district, carry out the following search:
Where in Victoria has the Museum recorded sightings of your chosen butterfly? Carry out the following search:
Enter the scientific name of your butterfly, and obtain a list of the latitude and longitude of all recorded sightings of your butterfly. Plot the most frequent sightings on a map of Victoria. Have there been any sightings near where you live?
By clicking on 'Distribution Map' at the top of the list of sightings, you will obtain access to six maps showing where in Victoria your butterfly has been recorded. The maps are:
Carefully examine each map and try to write statements about where your butterfly occurs in Victoria. The following questions may assist you to do this:
Find out the months in which your butterfly is active.
Enter the name of your butterfly and obtain a table and graph showing the months in which your butterfly has been recorded. Try to explain the pattern of sightings.
When was your chosen butterfly last recorded? Perhaps it was recorded often in the past, but less frequently in recent decades. Be aware, however, that a lack of recent recordings may mean that environmental problems (habitat destruction, predators, weather, disease...) have reduced the population of the butterfly, or it may mean that few field trips seeking your species have been conducted in recent years.
Examine the data for all of Victoria:
Enter the name of your butterfly. Try to write several statements about the pattern of recorded sightings over the past century. Can you think of any reasons for the changes in frequency of sightings?
Each species of butterfly has a few favourite plants on which they lay their eggs to ensure that the caterpillars will have food when they hatch. In many cases, they will have other favourite plants from which they obtain nectar as adult butterflies. It is useful to know what these plants are, because they can be planted to attract butterflies, or steps can be taken to conserve them when clearing or development threatens.
Find out which plants are favoured by your chosen butterfly:
Enter the name of your chosen butterfly and obtain the names of the host or food plants it favours. See if you can obtain some information about these plants.
Be aware that other butterflies may also be attracted to this plant. To check whether this is the case, enter the name of the plant:
Some species of ants keep the caterpillars of certain butterflies to obtain the secretions the caterpillars provide. It's a little like humans keeping dairy cows! Other caterpillars actually feed on ant larvae. Does your chosen butterfy have a symbiotic relationship with ants?
Find a definition of 'symbiotic' and then carry out the following search:
If the name of your butterfly is listed, enter it to discover the ant species it has a relationship with. Find out more about this ant species from reference books in your library. (If your butterfly species isn't listed, it doesn't have a symbiotic relationship with ants).
To obtain one or several images of your chosen butterfly, carry out the following search:
Enter the name of your chosen butterfly, select 'All Available Images' and gain access to all the images of the butterfly that are on the data base. These may be of eggs, larvae (caterpillars), larvae and ants, pupae (chrysalis), live adults, Museum pinned adult specimens, food plants, or habitats. Click on thumbnails to access and enlarge images.
Once you have finished the searches outlined above, you are ready to write your report. You may decide to supplement the data you have obtained with information from reference books in your library. This may provide you with additional information on butterflies in general, or on the butterfly you have chosen.
If the butterfly you have chosen is found in your district, you may also decide to carry out several butterfly observation field trips (in the warmer months), or you may be able to obtain information on butterfly sightings from your parents, neighbours or local naturalists. A butterfly identification key is available:
When you feel you have enough material, you should write a report on your chosen butterfly. The reports on each butterfly can then be combined into a report on the Butterflies of Victoria, and presented as: