Adapted from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter of September 28, 2007
issued from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve,
QUERÉTARO, MÉXICO

THE BUTTERFLY AT
MY SCREEN WINDOW

The other day I was typing away when a small butterfly entered my casita, streaked between my nose and the keyboard, and began bouncing against the screen window next to me. You can see the very butterfly below:

ATARNES SALLEI, Orange-spotted Skipper

At first glance my visitor looked like it belonged to the large subfamily of North American butterflies to which the abundant Red Admiral and Painted Lady belong, so I figured it was a member of the subfamily Nymphalinae. Therefore, at the wonderful "Mariposas Mexicanas" website ("mariposas" means butterflies) at http://www.mariposasmexicanas.com I searched all of that subfamily's pictures but found nothing like my window-bumper.

Then I sent the above picture to Mike Strangeland, who administers the Mariposas Mexicanas website. In a couple of hours I got a response. Mike wrote, "... that's one of my most favorite butterflies in Mexico... I know he looks like a Nymphalinae but he's actually a skipper, ATARNES SALLEI (Orange-spotted Skipper)."

Skippers, I thought, were dumpy looking little butterflies, basically half-moth, half-butterfly, with wings held at 45-degree angles and with greatly oversized, blunt heads. I'd never seen a skipper as butterfly-looking as this.

"Yes it seems there's a little convergent evolution going on in the butterfly world and sallei is a good example," Mike explained. For some reason this skipper needed to look like a Nymphalinae and he was doing a good job.

Mike was so tickled with my photograph that I decided to send him another I'd taken awhile back but never got around to writing about, and I was about to delete it from my hard disk.

"Please never trash any butterfly photos from Mexico, send them all to me," Mike shot back. "There have been about 30 new species of butterfly discovered in central and south Mexico over the last 10 years or so and half of those were discovered in the past 3 years. It's a very exciting time to be studying and photographing butterflies, so please photo everything you can get close to and send them to me!"