Friday, April 22, 2011

Lorquin's admiral, a Californian butterfly named after gold-seeker Pierre Lorquin

Lorquin's admiral (Limenitis lorquini, Nymphalidae family) is a butterfly species named after Pierre Joseph Michel Lorquin, who came from France to California during the gold rush in the 1850s [1]. In search of gold, he found and got interested in butterflies instead [2]: No field notes (if any taken) or letters survived; but he is said to be California's first lepidopterist.

Lorquin's admiral resembles the California Sister (Adelpha bredowii) of the brushfoot family [2-4]: both species have upperwing patterns of white diagonals on a dark background and an orange spot on each tip of their forewings. But Lorquin's admiral is smaller and its orange spots extend to the forewing edges. The admiral is found in scrub and oak woodland and riparian habitat of the Coast Ranges and Sierran valleys up to 8000 feet, where Pierre may have observed and flirted with his namesake, forgetting about the gold nuggets. 

Keywords: lepidopterology, history, taxonomy, North American West Coast

References and more to explore
[1] Arthur M. Shapiro: Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Region. UC Press [].

[2] Joe Eaton: The Color of Flight - Falling for Butterflies in the East Bay. Bay Nature April-June 2011, pp. 16-20 [].
[3] Peter Alden and Fred Heath: Field Guide to California. Chanticleer Press, Inc and Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, Seventh Printing 2007; page 214.
[4] Art Shapiro's Butterfly Site: Limenitis lorquini [].

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