ProyectoMariposa Biodiversidad y ecología de las mariposas diurnas de Colombia.

Why Colombia?

Colombia has an area of 1,114,748 km2, which represents only 0.7% of the earth’s land surface. However, in this country is found 10% of the global biodiversity, a fact that makes Colombia a country recognized by the international standards as "mega-diverse". Colombian biodiversity is expressed at different functional levels, i.e., the level of landscapes, ecosystems, species and the genetic level. In terms of coverage, 53.2 million hectares are covered by natural forests, 21.6 million by other types of vegetation in areas of savanna, arid zones and wetlands, 1.1 million inland, snow peaks and urban settlement, and at least 38.4 million are under agricultural use (Andrade 2002).

The different types of land coverage comprise a great diversity of ecosystems as a result of several factors: the geographic location in the tropics, a variety of soil and climatic conditions, and the existence of isolated areas due to tectonic uplift in different geological periods. At this level, Colombian diversity is such that a considerable part of the ecosystems that exist in the world are represented in the country (Andrade 2002).

Importantly, this large ecosystem diversity is directly related to species richness and furthermore to that of haplotypes, i.e., the diversity of a particular gene sequence that is found among different individuals of a species.

While there is no accurate estimate of the number of species in the world, the inventory information indicates that most species are found in just a few countries, which host more than 40% of the world's species. Faunal work in the country confirms that Colombia is among these countries, acknowledging its biogeographic importance and putting it forward as priority area for conservation of biodiversity worldwide.

Conservation International ( recognized three major biogeographic provinces in Colombia as biodiversity hotspots (Trans, Andean and Amazonian) and 8 special biogeographic regions: Nechí Chocó rainforest, dry forests of the Magdalena Valley, Valle del Cauca, cloud forests of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Serranía del Perija, Serranía de la Macarena, highland and mountainous Chiribiquete of Yariguíes.

There is nowadays available important data on Colombia’s high diversity. Colombia hosts  about 45,000 species of vascular plants, representing approximately 20% of the world tota;, 1815 bird species, representing 21.2% of all known birds in the world and 3,472 species of butterflies (Papilionoidea + Hesperoidea) that put the country in the second place worldwide in terms of butterfly diversity, after Peru. However, a recent estimate of the wealth of the country's butterfly inventory increases the number of species to about 4000 (com. per. Henao, 2007). A detailed inventory of most of the localities of Colombia should register between 200 and 1500 species, although the number of species observed in rapid assessment is essentially less (Villareal, 2004).

Although Colombia is one of the most biodiversity-rich places on the planet, there are few systematic works that have been devoted to the study of the butterfly fauna of the country (Le Crom, Constantine & Salazar, 2002). The first studies of butterflies in Colombia were made by Apolinar Maria in 1940. Then, between the 60’s and 90’s a number of personal collections were created and study centers began the systematic investigation of the Rhopalocera from Colombia. Among these collections, some highlights are: the Ernesto Schmidt-Mumm Collection (IAvH, Bogota), Jean Francoise Le Crom (Bogotá), Museum of Natural History from the National University of Colombia (Bogota), family Constantino (Cali), Museum of Natural History, University of Caldas, Carlos Rodriguez (Medellnn), Entomological Museum Francisco Luis Gallego, National Universidad of Colombia (Medellin) and Universitary Museum, University of Antioquia, Medellin.

Finally, thanks to the work of institutions and lepidopterists of the country it has become evident in recent projects, such as Tropical Andean Butterfly Diversity Project (, that there is growing interest in the field. Moreover, this is demostrated by the consolidation of a network of young researchers from different universities throughout the Colombian territory, dedicated to the study of the diversity and conservation of the butterflies in the country. These students constitute a high percentage of participation in calls for projects, training courses, and various meetings of scientific diffusion, worldwide. A sample of the growing interest is also the creation in 2006 of the Colombian Association for the Lepidopterology, ACOLEP (, founded by 44 members, mostly young researchers.