This comprehensive work describes and discusses the lives of all 247 species of butterflies in Sri Lanka and illustrates the adults of both sexes with colour photographs taken in the field. Additionally, the egg, larva and pupa of each species whose life history is known are illustrated. Several images portray rare species and behaviours that have not been documented before.
The first few chapters cover the history of the study of butterflies in Sri Lanka and their biogeography, classification, morphology, distribution, and conservation. An account of each species details identification, similar species, status, distribution, habitat, adult behaviour, immature stages, larval food plants, and, for threatened species, conservation concerns. Supplemental material includes a species list with the common name, scientific name and authorities, endemic status, and distribution by climatic zone, as well as a list of larval food plants and adult nectar sources. The book rounds off with a bibliography, a glossary and an index of the scientific and common names of the butterflies.
As a reference and an essential guide to the butterfly fauna of Sri Lanka, this book will interest, not only Sri Lankans and butterfly enthusiasts, students, professional entomologists, biologists and conservationists around the world, but also the general reader who has an interest in these beautiful creatures.
It is safe to say that this marvellous book by George (Michael) and Nancy van der Poorten on the butterflies of Sri Lanka is unlikely to be superseded by anything remotely comparable in the foreseeable future. The Butterfly Fauna of Sri Lanka is the product of Michael's lifelong fascination with the butterflies of his homeland, coupled with the results of a period of intense study, accompanied by his wife Nancy, over the past 15 years. Of course this book will help you identify any species of butterfly known to occur in Sri Lanka, and in this respect it may be compared with other comprehensive illustrated works on Sri Lanka's butterfly fauna, most notably The Butterflies of Ceylon by Bernard d'Abrera. But The Butterfly Fauna of Sri Lanka is more, very much more. While books like d'Abrera's depict butterflies mainly as pinned and spread museum specimens, stamp-collection-style, the van der Poortens' book deals mostly with living insects in all their glorious vitality. And with regard to the habits, life histories, food plants, eggs, and larval and pupal stages this book simply has no equal. The early stages of Sri Lanka's butterflies and the food plants of caterpillars are described and illustrated with a wealth of superb photographs, filling notable gaps in our knowledge. Although the title of the book is clearly a nod to L. G. O. Woodhouse's The Butterfly Fauna of Ceylon, for long the standard work on the butterflies of the island and the book which helped Michael develop his schoolboy hobby into something more serious, the van der Poortens' book is about the habits, life histories and ecology of these beautiful creatures, in addition to their diversity and identification. Preliminary chapters on Sri Lanka and its butterflies, the life of a butterfly, conservation and an introduction to the species accounts are followed by the chapters dealing with the species accounts, with families arranged alphabetically: Hesperiidae, Lycaenidae, Nymphalidae, Papilionidae, Pieridae and Riodinidae (within familes, subfamilies, genera and species also mostly follow an alphabetical sequence). At the end of the book are six appendices (Appendix A being an annotated list of species and Appendix F being the amazing 'photo album' of eggs, larvae and pupae), a glossary, lists of references, etc. All in all this is definitely a one-of-a-kind type of book. If you are seriously interested in the butterflies of Sri Lanka you need this book. Nothing else will suffice.
The Van der Poortens have produced a work on the butterflies of Sr Lanka that will not only be the new standard reference on the butterflies of that gorgeous island but which can hold its head up with the best two or three butterfly books produced globally in the last few years – and this is an increasingly competitive field.
Every species is illustrated by clear and useful photographs. Difficult groups have illustrated keys. Most important though is the natural historical information. Larvae and other immature stages are extensively illustrated. In total, they deal with 247 species and provide life-history information (particularly on larval food-plants) for almost 90% of these. This is a unique achievement for a tropical fauna and brings the level of available information on this fauna up to the levels previously anticipated for only in a few more temperate faunas (Europe, North America, South Africa, Australia). This is in no small part the result of the years of field work in Sri Lanka by the Van der Poortens themselves. The authors are to be congratulated on their achievement.
The book is privately published – whether or not this will impact on its availability I do not know. It certainly should be on the shelf of every butterfly enthusiast and specialist globally. The fact that NHBS lists it currently as 'unavailable' is a worry!