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Official Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society of Africa
2000, Metamorphosis Volume 11, Issue 2: 77 - 103
Publication Date : 2000-06-30
Author/s : Simon van Noort and G. Stone

Title :

Species richness, biogeography, conservation and pollination ecology of butterflies (Lepidoptera: Hesperoidea & Papilionoidea) in Mkomazi Game Reserve, Tanzania

Abstract :

Mkomazi Game Reserve* encompasses a semi-arid, physiographically diverse savanna incorporating a broad habitat spectrum, from open grassland through Combretum bushland and Acacia-Commiphora woodland to Afromontane forest. A preliminary and largely opportunistic survey recorded 153 butterfly species within the reserve.  Based on distribution and habitat preferences we estimate that as many as 419 species may eventually be recorded as occurring in Mkomazi.  This is a high species richness for a savanna area the size of Mkomazi, and underlines the important role the reserve plays in conserving a representative portion of the diverse East African butterfly fauna.  The topographic and associated habitat diversity contributes towards the presence of a number of different biogeographical elements within the reserve.  Three distinct assemblages are discernible within the Mkomazi butterfly community.  The commonest assemblage constitutes species associated with Carcasson’s Eastern Zone of Open Formations, typically including species with a widespread distribution covering eastern and southern Africa.  The remaining two assemblages represent more specialized communities.  The Afromontane forest element (Carcasson’s Tanzania-Nyasa Zone of Highland Forest) is restricted to less than 1% of the reserve.  However, relative to area, the montane forest habitat contains the highest butterfly species richness within Mkomazi and needs to be carefully managed from a conservation perspective.  Carcasson’s Somalia Zone of Open Formations provides the assemblage most characteristic of the reserve, one whose species are associated with arid scrub and dry grassland of the Somalia-Masai regional centre of floral endemism.  A number of new distribution records were documented during the survey.  Mkomazi is the northern most locality that Alaena nyassa major has been recorded, and populations of Belenois margaritacea intermedia and Acraea cerasa cerasa were unexpectedly located within the reserve .  A species previously only known from Kenya, Acraea pudorina, was recorded for the first time from Tanzania.  We also report on the role that butterflies play in Acacia pollination ecology within Mkomazi.  Butterflies along with bees and flies are important pollinators of a number of Acacia species within the reserve. 

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