Population studies and conservation of Jamaica's endangered swallowtail butterfly Papilio (Pterourus) homerus

  • Garraway E
  • Bailey A
  • Freeman B
 et al. 
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Abstract

This is an 18-year study of the endangered Papilio (Pterourus) homerus,
adding substantial information to our scanty knowledge of its ecology.
The contraction of a once contiguous but narrow population on a single
Caribbean island carries the serious threat of extinction. There are now
two populations or probably metapopulations, effectively isolated from
each other. The butterfly's larvae feed on Hernandia catalpaefolia and
H. jamaicensis, both endemic to Jamaica, and development takes similar
to 84 days from egg to the emerged adult. Adult numbers fluctuate
rapidly, with peaks in July/August each year. Egg distribution was
studied at three spatial levels: the food item (leaf cluster), the patch
(tree) and the habitat (each valley). Major causes of developmental
mortality were Chrysonotomyia, a eulophid parasitoid of the eggs, and
bacterial infection of the larvae and pupae. Critically, the mortality
from this wasp was lower in undisturbed forest than in the area
disturbed by agriculture, this finding having important consequences for
conservation. Although there was no evidence of a decline in numbers
over the last century, we believe this is an artefact due to collectors
working only at the periphery of its distribution. Even assuming that
its population densities have not changed, the contraction of its usable
habitat implies a similar reduction in average numbers and the small
populations are susceptible to disaster. The efforts of researchers,
NGOs, and Government agencies have greatly increased the level of
awareness, making the people in some key areas the `protectors of the
species'.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Egg parasitoids
  • Metapopulations
  • Natural deception
  • Physical factors
  • Polymorphism
  • Population dynamics
  • Rare species
  • Spatial distribution

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Authors

  • Eric Garraway

  • A. J.A. Bailey

  • B. E. Freeman

  • J. R. Parnell

  • T. C. Emmel

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