Butterflies prove resilient travellers

Butterflies of the South Pacific, by Brian Patrick and Hamish Patrick (Otago University Press, RRP $50):

Butterflies may appear to be fragile creatures but their ability to colonise the tiny, scattered islands of the vast South Pacific ocean proves they are anything but fragile.

From Kiribati, Tuvalu and Fiji in the west, to the far-flung Marquesas and Austral Islands in French Polynesia in the east, this book looks at the butterflies that inhabit these tropical islands.

The survey goes as far north as Hawaii, where just a few islands dot an otherwise empty expanse of sea.

And, of course, for the southern part of this book, the authors have looked at New Zealand and beyond to subantarctic waters.

That butterflies have managed to spread themselves across an ocean with so few places to make landfall shows just how resilient these insects are.

In some areas, butterflies colonised by colonised, in others they moved in via land bridges when sea levels were lower.

More recently, people have made their way into the region and the final chapter looks at the impacts of human migration and population growth, and identifies conservation issues.

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