This book covers the whole of Europe (from the Atlantic Isles to the Ural mountains), North Africa (from Morocco to Egypt), Asia Minor and the Near East, and covers 703 species. It contains over 10,000 unique colour illustrations, of which 7000 are collection specimens including subspecies, many rarities, type specimens; 2000 are photographs of butterflies in nature, many species figured for the first time; and 1000 photographs of habitat and landscapes including historical photos where habitats was destroyed. Also included are more than 700 colour distribution maps with differently coloured ranges for each subspecies. The text covers nomenclature, distribution, habitat, and flight period.
Butterflies of Europe and the Mediterranean Area
by Dr David Thomas in the United Kingdom (09/07/2012)
This is a hugely useful & valuable book on several counts:
• Geographical coverage is wider than many other field guides to so-called "European" butterflies: the WHOLE of geographical Europe as far E as the Ural Mts (so much more than the traditional coverage of just W. & central Europe), a large fringe of northern Africa along the Mediterranean, Turkey, the Caucasus and a substantial "Mediterranean" chunk of Asia Minor. Many of the species covered here also occur beyond this already wide range, so the book can also be used to ID many of the butterflies occuring in (for example) central Asia
• It is taxonomically rigorous: it cites authors, dates & literature sources for the scientific names used, plus type localities for the taxa described, and also provides lists of the scientific names regarded as synonymous with the names used. This means that it is easy to check (for example) whether similar pictures of butterflies described under one name in one text and another name in another text actually refer to the same species under different names (a common occurrence) or are really two different but similar butterfles.
• Another very useful taxonomic strength is the list (p13ff) of type specimens illustrated in the text: this means that in such cases, the picture you see is of the specimen upon which the scientific desription was based and to which the scientific name was properly applied, so you can be absolutely sure what butterfly should be going under that name. Short of seeing the actual type specimens, this is about as good as it gets when ID-ing these butterflies rigorously.
• All species are illustrated with specimens from several (identified) parts of their geographical ranges, so it is easy to see the extent of variation within the species, and what variants can be expected in any particular area.
• All species also include useful illustrations of their typical habitat.
• There is an excellent check-list (p17ff) showing a thumbnail picture of each species, page number for its full description plus a list of the subspecies covered there. This is a very quick & handy way of comparing a specimen to be ID-ed with the range of species "available", so letting you home in on the most similar ones.
• The distribution maps are clear & generally at an appropriate scale, so species with limited distributions are shown at larger scale than those with a wide geographical range. Useful for species of limited distribution which would be next to invisible if mapped at European scale!
• The text on each (sub)species is brief, and covers "range" including (where necessary) that beyond the book's mapped distribution, "wingspan", "habitat", "phenology" = flight period during year, and a list of "host plants". Given the excellent maps, space used in the text to cover the same information might have been more usefully used to expand the other information a little.
• What this book lacks are any identification keys or indicators of the diagnostic characteristics of an individual species, so identification of any specimen relies entirely on comparisons with the illustrations. These are almost universal weaknesses of most ID-guides to (European) butterflies, and mean that one can often be unsure which of a group of rather similar species one's specimen best resembles.
• Bird ID-guides long-ago (1950s) realised the importance of making species-diagnostic features explicit, and botanists and mycologists have been in the habit for much longer of using keys to get at reliable specific identities. When will lepidopterists wake up to the high value of these techniques?