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Discovery Central Asia #23
Discovery Central Asia

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2008 2007


Butterflies of Kyrgyzstan

Autor & Photos: S.A.Toropov

The majestic mountain systems of the Djungara, Tian Shan, Pamiro-Alay, and Gissaro-Darvas are covered by glaringly white glacier ridges, emerald meadows of the mountain valleys, sapphire 'eyes' of lakes, fast flowing streams and waterfalls of the rushing mountain rivers carrying their crystal waters to the languid hot deserts of Turan. This diversity of landscapes and climatic zones is a “Mecca” for tourists, scientists, and travelers. This is Central Asia!

Such a diversity of natural systems creates unique conditions for the habits of numerous specimens of fauna - including the world of insects, the brightest specimens of which are butterflies: the “living flowers of nature”.

More than 300 species of butterflies inhabit the different ecosystems of the Central Asia. Visitors to this region can encounter such species as: Parnassius loxias, an inhabitant of the rocky canyons of the Central Tian Shan in the river basin Sari-Jazz; Parnassius autocrator, a 'prize' for any collector which inhabits the vertical rocks along the Pamirs' ranges.  The habitats of these two specimens of apollo are very limited and hard-to-reach.

In 2006 the entomological world was shaken by a sensation.  In the unstudied places of the system of Moldo-Too ranges of the Internal Tian Shan, a new specimen of apollo, the Parnassius davydovi, was discovered by the Russian entomologist S.V.Churkin.  This was the first such discovery for the last hundred years. 

Besides 18 species of apollos living in this region, there are 14 of the alfalfa butterfly (Colias) which are of special interest for tourists and entomologists alike.  There is no such diversity of this species in any region, all over the world.

There are the orange and scarlet Colias draconis, an inhabitant of the steppe slopes of the Western Tian-Shan, endemic of Tian Shan, and the Scarlet fiery Colias regia.

The Colias christophi helialaica, an inhabitant of the fogbound passes of the Alaysk range with its unusually ash-brown colors, is a welcome guest in any entomologists' collection. And, of course, these legendary butterflies are very rare.

The Colias erschoffi is an inhabitant of the severe Middle mountains of Toksanbaya.  In the early spring, in the sandy and loamy deserts Muyunkum they delight the visitors by their heady flight from flower to flower.

The Microzergriz pyrathoe is a graceful sulfur butterfly with fiery wingtips, and the bigger Zegris fausti.

In the flood plains of the rivers Ili and Charin flit the Coenonimpha mongolica, a gently-ashen coloured endemic butterfly.  On the tops of bushes the graceful Atraphaxis and the Athamanthia show off their shimmering rainbow colors. There are 10 species of them in Central Asia.
The fiery copper-butterflies, Thersamonia solskyi attila, inhabit the mountain systems of the Eastern Alay. The endemic copper-butterflies Plebejus, with brilliant 'eyes' on their lower wings, inhabit the sea-buckthorn bushes along the banks of mountain rivers. Numerous species of Hyponephele, Pseudochazara, Chazara, Karanasa, amongst others, inhabit the dry foothills and high mountain steppes of different ranges. All of them sparkling and shimmering at the sun.  Visitors cannot remain indifferent to the diversity of butterflies whether they are tourists, entomologists, (collectors or scientists).




And when the bright colors of the butterflies give way as daylight fades, the more reticent colored species of moths began their dance. There are the nimble divers, Noctuidae, (of which the species Cuculia are of special interest), and rash hawkmoths, (among which the visitor can see rare species such as the Rhethera komarovi), and the peacock moth, Neoris, (which amazes everybody by its eyes).  The brightly colored tiger moths are inhabitants of the high-mountain valleys. Almost all species of these butterflies are endemic of the Central Asia. The species Oroncus, Acerbia, Arctia ruckbeili, and numerous species of Palearctia are of special interest.

Since the beginning of the 1990's, Kyrgyzstan has been visited annually by scientists and entomologist tourists from Great Britain, Germany, Finland, Japan, Italy, Greece, France and Russia.  These visitors take away unforgettable impressions about the beautiful butterflies of this paradisiacal land. In the entomological journals of different countries scientific articles are appearing with descriptions of new taxons opened in these summer expeditions.

On the eve of 2007, the first volume of the book, (written by S.A.Toropov and A.B. Zhdanko) about butterflies from a number of mountain territories of Central Asia, was published.  This quite unique edition is an illustrated manual about the lepidopterous families of Papilionidae, Pieridae and Satyridae of the Djungara, Tian Shan, Alay and Eastern Pamir fauna and combines the features of a scientific work with a popular photograph album.

The book contains information about 145 species of butterflies including data regarding type and locality, the plants on which the butterflies feed, their natural habitat, dehelmintization phases, and their way of living. Sketches about all species are illustrated by 729 magnificent color pictures illustra-ting their appearance, fodder plants, typical natural habitat, as well as maps showing the distribution of each species and subspecies. This book can be used as a wonderful guidebook for tourists, scientists, and lepidoptherologists wishing to visit the Central Tian Shan.



Discovery Central Asia #21

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