Watch: Weird and wonderful butterflies in the Cal Academy Collection

A glimpse at Cal Academyโ€™s butterfly collection and a discussion about why these butterfly collections are important to science

by GrrlScientist for The Guardian | @GrrlScientist

Bilateral gynandromorph Ornithoptera goliath procus from Ceram Island.
(Credit: Kings Rarities Butterflies; โ€œBeautiful Gynandromorphโ€.)

Do you like butterflies and moths? I certainly do. When I was a graduate student, part of my graduate training was invested into studying moths. So captivated by moths and butterflies was I that I seriously considered devoting my professional career to studying them.

Butterflies and mothsโ€Šโ€”โ€Šthe lepidopteransโ€Šโ€”โ€Šare more than just pretty insects that pollinate plants. They are important research subjects that provide valuable glimpses into evolutionary processes. They provide scientists with important insights into sexual selection, speciation, and the relationship between ecology and evolution and between genetics and evolution.

One important resource for studying lepidopterans is museum collections. The California Academy of Sciences is home to the largest collection of biological reference materials west of the Mississippi. Dating back over 100 years, the collection provides a treasure trove of biological information for scientists and researchers studying the natural world. Of the 20 million specimens housed at the Cal Academy, 17 million are insects in the Entomology Department. In this fascinating video, Collections Manager Norman Penny shares a small peek at The Academyโ€™s vast butterfly collection, and as a special treat, he shows us an extremely rare gynandromorphโ€Šโ€”โ€Ša half male half female butterfly:

Cal Academy Butterfly Collection.

Read more butterfly science:

GrrlScientist. โ€œDNA Barcodes Reveal Two Distinct Butterflies Are Male And Female Of Same Speciesโ€, Forbes, 4 August 2017. (Medium link.)

GrrlScientist. โ€œFragmented Habitats Accelerate Butterfly Evolutionโ€Šโ€”โ€ŠAnd Extinctionโ€, Forbes, 25 February 2016. (Medium link.)

GrrlScientist. โ€œBirth of the blue morphosโ€, The Guardian, 13 April 2015. (Medium link.)

GrrlScientist. โ€œWhy does this butterfly hiss?โ€, The Guardian, 3 February 2014. (Medium link.)

GrrlScientist. โ€œWatch: A century of butterflies and mothsโ€, The Guardian, 14 August 2012. (Medium link.)

GrrlScientist. โ€œWatch: How to fix a broken butterfly wingโ€, The Guardian, 30 November 2011. (Medium link.)

GrrlScientist. โ€œWatch: Supergene controls butterfly mimicryโ€, The Guardian, 18 August 2011. (Medium link.)

GrrlScientist. โ€œThe hot and cold of butterfly dancingโ€, The Guardian, 1 February 2011. (Medium link.)

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Originally published at The Guardian on 26 April 2012.