Butterflies in Tribute to Darwin and Lincoln
On their birthday, a plea for biological diversity and human civility
On this day 211 years ago, February 12, 1809, two men were born into a world they would go on to change in profound ways: Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln.
At a time of such extreme political divisiveness here in the U.S., our new Civil War, and with two conservationists apparently murdered over Monarch butterflies in Mexico this month, it might seem ill-timed to celebrate Darwin and Lincoln today. After all, two of their most cherished ideals remain imperiled: biological diversity and human civility.
There is much to be said about this, of course, which I plan to do in an upcoming essay. Instead, on this day, well, I’m signing off for a while to chase some of that biodiversity along the Rio Grande. So I will leave you instead with additional butterflies from the McGuire Center of Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, where I was on an expedition to retrieve Vermont and Maine specimen data. During those adventures, however, I could not help but wander farther afield among millions of specimens: on the left below you will see various Nymphalidae (brushfoot) species from the New World tropics, and on the right, Speyeria species, greater fritillaries, from here in the temperate zone.
Arranged in large part to look pretty, rather than specifically for scientists to peruse, these butterflies are, at least for me, an expression of art, adventure, intellect, diversity and reverence — maybe even civility. And we all could use more of that stuff these days — in symbolism and in life. Click either image to see the full drawer.