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Distribution of Afrotropical Kite Swallowtails


Graphium policenesThis database of distribution records is a result of Campbell R. Smith and Dick Vane Wright's "A review of the afrotropical species of the genus Graphium (Lepidoptera: Rhopalocera: Papilionidae)" published in Bulletin of The Natural History Museum (Entomology Series) 70 (2): 503-719 (November, 2001). We also hope that the results of that review will be posted on the web in due course.

The database was thus produced as a working tool and we hope that visitors will regard it in that light. It is far from perfect with, no doubt, errors of spelling, interpretation and even fact. We have been unable to locate many of the place names, often transcribed from old and barely legible data labels on ancient museum specimens - in some cases, we cannot even determine which country they are from. It is also very far from complete, as a quick look at any of the maps will show.

We hope you can help us to improve the accuracy and coverage of the database by:

  • sending us your own records
  • telling us if any of our records are inaccurate
  • helping us to locate any records for which we do not give the latitude and longitude

The records

For each record, and depending on the type of search (see Help), we give the species and subspecies name (where appropriate) and the country, locality, and latitude and longitude, when we have been able to discover them.

Latitude and longitude are given in either of two formats according to your choice: Conventional, as degrees and minutes North or South, East or West; or Decimal, as degrees and hundredths of a degree. In this system, a negative latitude is South of the equator, a negative longitude is West of the Greenwich meridian.

The Status column represents the source of the data. We give the following sources in descending order of confidence:

  • BMNH - specimens in The Natural History Museum.
    These have all been individually examined by us and have been recorded in the Department of Entomology's specimen level database. As such, we can refer to them at any time to confirm both their identification and their stated provenance.
  • EUR - specimens in other museums we were able to visit or borrow from during the course of our study. We were able to study the collections in several European museums in Belgium, Denmark, France and Germany and to borrow specimens from these and some other institutions including, most notably, the African Butterfly Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya. The only reason why we are slightly less confident in these records is that the visits and the identifications were made before our final taxonomic conclusions were drawn.
  • LIT - records from the literature. For these we were unable to examine the specimens described (except where they duplicate records based on specimens seen in The Natural History Museum or the other visited museums). Literature records we considered unreliable have been omitted.

The locality records themselves show a certain amount of redundancy. Apart from obvious keyboarding errors that will no doubt be found, there is some reason for this. We noted the localities as they appeared on the data labels or in the literature. Thus a particular place may be represented in a variety of ways, often depending on the language of the collector. Furthermore, places in different parts of a country, or even in different countries, may share the same name. Deciding between them may be problematic. Further causes of confusion include the collector giving the name of the city from which (s)he set out, rather than the actual locality; giving the name of the town where the specimen was purchased; giving too general a locality (a classic being 'Guinea').

The maps

The maps were produced by feeding the records from this database into our colleague Paul Williams' software package, WORLDMAP. This program is designed primarily for the analysis of patterns of biodiversity distribution, principally for conservation evaluation. We did carry out some more sophisticated analyses and presented these in our written review.

The maps are based on a 1° x 1° grid of the afrotropical region. Each spot on the map may represent just one record falling into that square, or several records from several localities within that area. Because the spots are smaller than the squares, some appear to be in the middle of the sea. Rest assured that part of the square is dry land.

The colour of the spots reflects the confidence levels:
  • Red = BMNH
  • Green = EUR
  • Blue = LIT
Where a square has records from more than one source, the higher or highest level is used.

Graphium taboranus Two general points can be made from the maps:

1)   Even the maps for the commonest, most widespread and best-known species have many gaps. This may represent genuine patchy distribution due to environmental heterogeneity, but many more gaps are due to lack of records. For some of the less common, more restricted and poorly known species the situation is even worse. This serves to emphasise our request for more information.

2)   No single institution, including The Natural History Museum, can cover the full extent of a species' distribution. Each institution reflects its history and that of its country, often its colonial history. The maps and records here represent the cumulative information stored in just 11 museums, plus some of the literature. It would be a great advantage to be able to mobilise the information held in other institutions, private collections and any literature that we have obviously missed.

To repeat our plea, therefore: this database is only as good as the data we have been able to put in it. Please send us whatever you can to help improve it.

If you wish to add your own records to this database, please email them to C R Smith, or send them by post to:

C R Smith
Department of Entomology
The Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road
London, SW7 5BD

Graphium ridleyanus To be most useful, you should include: the taxon name; country, locality and (if possible) latitude and longitude; elevation; collector's name; date; any bionomic/environmental information.

Institutions (e.g. museums) that might be willing to mobilise their data, should please make contact in case we can help with taking advantage of developing European networks, software etc. for shared databasing.

Maps and database last updated May 2002.