It seems there is not necessary to make extended introduction to the fourth book of special series by S. Toropov & A. Zhdanko (2006, 2009, 2013) about diurnal lepidopterans of one of the most interesting region of Inner Asia.
In several known scientific publications (Lukhtanov & Lukhanov 1994; Korshunov & Gorbunov 1995; Zhdanko 2002; Tshikolovets, Yakovlev, & Kosterin 2009), history of study of butterflies inhabiting this and neighbouring parts of the former USSR was outlined in details. Here was not a goal to repeat such retrospective description of earlier investigations. Distinctions of the present edition from papers of precursors, as well peculiarities of lepidopteran fauna of Eastern Turan, Tarbagatai, Saur or South-western Altai, were described in the preface for the first volume (Toropov & Zhdanko 2013), which book was devoted to representatives of families Papilionidae, Pieridae, and Satyridae.
The present volume includes 145 essays about Papilionoidea species registered in Eastern Turan, Tarbagatai, Saur and South-western Altai, of three families: Danaidae, Nymphalidae, and Lycaenidae. It also includes acknowledgements, reference list, alphabetical index for butterfly taxa (genera, species and subspecies), and presentations of the authors. The authors have seen fit to place selected photos reporting their field expeditions via the investigated territory and some additions to their earlier books («Addenda»), in the end of present volume.
Each essay consists of the Latin name of a species and identical text in Russian and English, which contains brief information about type locality, general area of distribution, typical habitats (biotopes), altitudinal diapason of spreading, flying period, number of generations, host-plants, as well data on pre-imaginal phases and ecological peculiarities. Some facts represent results of the original study and recent observations. A description of each species includes illustrations for the essay and takes at least one whole book opening. Type localities are also given for subspecies occurs within considered territory. There are several taxonomical remarks when necessary, and most important (in the authors’ opinion) synonyms. The order of taxa accepted in the present book reflects the most advanced changes in systematic and nomenclature of diurnal butterflies, but authors occasionally hold the own or traditional notions.
Information about distribution of a species is presented on colour relief-shaded map with point marking (coloured circles) of the known loci where subspecies were found. The primary colour of the circles is red, it was used to mark sites of the species discovery if this species is not divided into subspecies, or sites where only one subspecies was discovered in territory considered. Distribution of the other subspecies found in this territory is marked by circles of the other colours, and the loci where there were found individuals of uncertain systematic position, which taxonomic denomination needs to be additionally studied and defined more precisely – by rings. Some doubtful sites mentioned in the literature sources are mapped by the question mark.
Maps are presented (at pages 10–11 and 12–13) for an idea about the region, fauna of which is considered in this book. These maps are schematic: administrative borders have no official character, there are plotted all towns with population over half of million citizens while another settlements are selectively mapped. Borders of the considered territory are determined out mainly by bio-geographic criteria, so this area includes neither state territory whole. Certainly, borders of practically all traditionally named regions such as Northern Tien Shan, Dzhungaria («Songoria»), Heptapotamia («Semirechie»), Eastern Turan, Southern Altai etc., as well their parts, are rather conditional and have different interpretations in various zoo-geographical schemes for arranging the territories of Eurasian subcontinent. In the present book there is considered butterfly (Lepidoptera, Papilionoidea) fauna of Eastern Turan, Tarbagatai, Saur and South-western Altai in limited territory (the former USSR, i. e. excluding of adjacent areas of People’s Republic of China). Borders of the area covered can be different in the comparison to those conventionally accepted in some well-known bio-geographical schemes. There fore this area (see map at pages 12–13) includes desert plains adjacent with Syr-Darya River valley (also Fergana Valley, while northwards up to 45th northern latitude), southern half of Betpak-Dala Desert, Talas and Chu river basins, basins of lakes Balkhash, Alakol, Zaisan, and Markakol, mountain ranges Tarbagatai, Manrak, and Saur, with the north-east limit at Bukhtarma River.
It could be noted that several species and/or subspecies recorded here are not included in the present book deliberately – because of their erroneous or occasion status (rarely or semi-regular migrants from adjacent mountain areas). E. g. aenigmatic Ahlbergia arquata Johnson, 1992 (described from «Andijan, E. Turkestan...») is probaly erroneously labelled series of A. tricaudata Johnson, 1992 from Abakan environs; Euphydryas (Eurodryas) asiatica (Staudinger, 1881) earlies was listed for Tarbagatai and Saur mountain ranges but corresponding museum specimens were not revealed. There were single or seldom records (within the limits of the south-western parts of considered territory) of Libythea celtis (Laicharting, 1782), Superflua lunulata (Erschoff in Fedtschenko, 1874), S. sassanides (Kollar, 1849), some Athamanthia species, Lampides boeticus (Linnaeus, 1767), Freyeria trochylus (Freyer, 1845), Glaucopsyche aeruginosa (Staudinger, 1881), Plebejus idas tshimganus (Forster, 1936), Afarsia antoninae (V. Lukhtanov, 1999) etc., however these taxa are deliberately omitted here. Such species (recorded by authors also) are more typical inhabitants of the adjacent piedmonts and foothills, or migrants, and are considered in second volume of the first book (Toropov & Zhdanko 2009), about butterflies of Dzhungar, Tien Shan, Alai, and Eastern Pamirs.
In addition to colour photographs of collection specimens (male, female and underside-view; all in natural scale), visual characteristics for species are presented with colour photographs of butterflies in natural setting, caterpillars, their host-plants, pupas, typical biotopes in their habitats. Each photograph is supplied with a note in English including the name of a photographer.
Quality of illustrations (including artistic quality of photographs) were considered as one of desirable advantages of this project in comparison to the similar books. Certainly, in addition to limited volume of the book great diversity of forms, variations and aberrations (both known for authors only and already described in lepidopterological literature) makes the task to illustrate wide morphological variability typical for many species extremely difficult. Owing to this, there is only a few number of photographs for every species, that does not reflect the entire range of intraspecies morphological (and biotopic) diversity. The authors decided to give no annotations for genera and families and also avoid of overloading text with references to original descriptions of species and subspecies, as well as with taxonomic names of intermediate ranks (subfamilies, tribes and subgenera). Also there was a supposition that it is admissible no include numerous references to papers with descriptions, reviews, revisions, and results of particular ecological, faunistic, morphological, etc. researches were also excluded from the reference list. Authors did not have a task to make complete bibliography on the regional fauna of butterflies, or to give all reference to papers (books, scientific articles, published notes, etc.) used in our own study of this problem. That’s why we included only the most significant references, as well those containing accurate and little known facts.
Its quite undoubted that all four books are interesting both for relatively narrow sections of the specialists and many amateurs – entomologists, collectors, students of biological specialists, tourists and naturalists in general. Probably these books might be used in further investigations on the biodiversity and will serve for integrated conservation of unique ecosystems in Middle Asia and Eastern Kazakhstan, as butterflies species are the significant component almost of all biocenoses.
Dmitry A. Milko