Supported by the Darwin Initiative and other sponsors

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University College London
James Mallet, Blanca Huertas
Lead UK institution.
UCL and the Natural History Museum, London (NHM) are working to provide a taxonomic list online for all butterflies. Images of NHM butterfly type specimens are being made available as part of this project.
McGuire Center for Lepidoptera
University of Florida

Keith Willmott
Lead US institution. The MGCL has one of the largest collections of neotropical butterflies in the world, and data are being recorded from specimens as part of this project.
Conservation International
The tropical Andean region is one of the world's 34 biodiversity hotspots
Project news
June, 2011: Project members and collaborators are working on a publication defining priorities for conservation and research on tropical Andean butterflies. A number of chapters have been completed or are in the final editing stage.
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Catasticta ludovici Eitschberger & Racheli, 1998
© Keith Willmott
A male resting on a river boulder after puddling, Rio Retiro, Morona-Santiago, Ecuador. The genus Catasticta includes a great diversity of Andean species, of which some are highly restricted in geographic and elevational range, like this species.
Range: central to southeastern Ecuador, from 1200-2000m.
Localities for C. ludovici
Status: males are locally common puddling along forested mountain streams, and females are occasionally encountered along forest edges. Males also perch around the edges of clearings and along roads, around 2-3m above the ground.

The Tropical Andean Butterfly Diversity Project is an international collaboration among scientists, institutions and organizations involved in research on the butterflies of the tropical Andean region. The project was established with funding from the United Kingdom's Darwin Initiative. The project's goals are to build a foundation for future research on butterflies in the region. The project provides resources, such as specimen databases, species lists and images, conducts training courses for students in Andean countries, and is developing a strategy for butterfly research and conservation in the tropical Andean region.

Project goal

To build a foundation for butterfly research and conservation in the tropical Andean region


The tropical Andean region for the purpose of this project is defined by the national borders of the countries of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia

We currently focus on "true" butterflies, Papilionoidea, covering the families Papilionidae, Pieridae and Nymphalidae (c. 2000 species). Additional groups (Hesperioidea, Lycaenidae, Riodinidae) will be selectively covered.


Provide and improve resources for research on tropical Andean butterflies, including specimen collections, publications, databases and image archives

Increase the number of workers by encouraging students to conduct research on tropical Andean butterflies

Raise the profile of butterflies and establish a future strategy for research and conservation in the region

Activities (completed or ongoing)

Curate and identify collections of collaborating institutions and individuals in tropical Andean countries, the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera at the University of Florida, USA (MGCL) and the Natural History Museum, London, UK (NHM)

Record distribution data in an electronic database for focal groups from specimens in the above collections and from published sources (revisions and monographs) and make these and taxonomic data freely available online

Photograph type specimens of tropical Andean butterflies in collaborating institutions and make these images, and others, available online

Conduct research into the taxonomy of certain key groups of Andean butterflies and publish revisions where appropriate

Provide electronic copies of project publications which may be freely downloaded

Conduct 1 week introductory courses for up to 30 students on butterfly biology and survey methods in each tropical Andean country

Provide scholarships to select students to encourage and assist with thesis research projects on butterflies

Provide advice on field methods, project design, identification and data analysis to selected students conducting thesis research projects

Future strategy
Organise a conference on tropical Andean butterflies to be held in South America in 2008, to gather students and researchers, analyse and present project results

Analyse data to assign conservation threat categories to species

Identify priority areas for conservation in the tropical Andes

Analyse data to test biogeographic and macroecological hypotheses in tropical Andean butterflies

Publish a Regional Strategy for Research and Conservation of tropical Andean butterflies to guide future work