Readers’ wildlife photographs

Today on Evolution Day we have some lovely butterflies from reader Jim Trice, who posts here under the name “ratabago.” The IDs and comments are his:

 I thought I’d dig through my archives and send you some wildlife photos. These are taken in either the Mount Lofty Ranges or around Adelaide, South Australia.

The first couple of shots (first is a Blue feeding on succulent; second a Blue feeding on brown [JAC? Brown?]) were taken at the Adelaide Botanic Garden in March 2012. They are perhaps the most common butterfly in Australia, the Common Grass Blue, sometimes called the Clover Blue, Zizina labradus. These are a small butterfly that reputedly grows to around 22mm, but most of the ones I’ve seen are smaller than that. Their larvae eat a variety of native and introduced legumes. As they can live on pasture and crop plants from the Fabaceae family they have thrived since colonisation, despite habitat clearance. Like other members of the  Lycaenidae family, the larvae of this species can form a close association with ants. The closer of these shots was taken with a 36mm extension tube on my macro lens, and is around 1.36X life size.

The two Browns are from the family Nymphalidae. I think they are both the Common Brown, Heteronympha merope. Their wingspan is a little over 40mm. They were taken near Minno Creek in the Mount Lofty Ranges during December 2011. The Common Brown feeding  close up was taken with extension tubes, and is greater than life size.


The Small Cabbage White, Pieris rapae from the family Pieridae, was taken in my back garden. It is an introduced species and regarded as an horticultural pest. The shot was taken in November 2013.

The orange skipper is the Southern Grass Dart, Ocybadistes walkeri, from the family Hesperiidae. These are quite small, with a wingspan of around 20mm. Its larvae live on grass, particularly native grasses. They are a common butterfly. This one was feeding in a herb patch in the Mount Lofty Ranges, December 2011.


  1. ladyatheist
    Posted November 24, 2017 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Beautiful photos!

  2. ratabago
    Posted November 24, 2017 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    “(first is a Blue feeding on succulent; second a Blue feeding on brown [JAC? Brown?])”

    Yes, that’s confusing. It’s supposed to say something like “…the second titled a Blue feeding on brown.” I proofread that a couple of times, and still missed it. The Brown refers to the background colour rather than the plant.

  3. yazikus
    Posted November 24, 2017 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Really lovely shots.

  4. Debbie Coplan
    Posted November 24, 2017 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Really beautiful photos.

  5. Posted November 24, 2017 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    I really enjoyed these pictures and descriptions. Thank you.
    Putting extension tubes on a macro lens is a great way to goose up the magnification, which is a method I probably should try getting back to.

    • ratabago
      Posted November 24, 2017 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Mark.

      Extension tubes open a lot of possibilities, but also have their downside. I find available light becomes very limiting, and depth of field brutally shallow. The common grass blue closeup wasn’t too bad, as there was strong afternoon light. But often I find I need to use a diffused speedlite, which is what I did with the portrait of the common brown. I don’t have a diffuser, so I masking tape a loose loop of baking paper of around 18cm x 14cm over the front my flash head. It does a pretty good job of reducing blown highlights. Nice thing about baking paper is that it is unlikely to catch fire if my flash gets hot.

  6. Posted November 24, 2017 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I wanted to comment on the thread “what would disprove evolution” which I had just read, but that was posted 5 yearsago and comments are closed. Having looked through your recent posts, this one looks like the most appropriate, since it’s “evolution” day. The main premise of my comment is “evolution is vague and lots of things are conflated”.

    We hardly observe reduced gene flow between groups to the point of not being interfertile anymore. That’s hard to prove in any case because you’d have to watch every pairing of every male and female. All we see is the end result and we don’t know how it happened.

    The biggest real evidence of speciation I know of is ring species. Everything else seems to be total handwaving. In fact “evolution” is just an umbrella term for many different theories about how speciation happens.

    I have no problem with the theory of common ancestry. That has a lot of proof. But the idea that speciation happens EXCLUSIVELY by random mutation and “natural selection” is just handwaving theorizing. It’s super hard to prove and we haven’t even begun to get close to what constitutes as a proof. It’s on the level of ancient people thinking the ONLY way to get fire is by rubbing some sticks together.

    And yet I see the latter (“natural selection”) being conflated by many in the scientific community with the former and used to suppress other theories about how speciation occurs even though it is completely handwavy and vague. “Natural selection” is a catch-all vague term and the concept of “species” has become more fluid. That *is* bullying.

    Basically common descent can be rigorously defined and shown. The PROCESS by which speciation happens is poorly understood and has been a subject of much posturing by the scientific community (including popularizers like Dawkins) for decades.

    Observing phenotypical differences is not enough. Purebreed dogs worldwide have phenotypical differences, yet have not undergone any allopatric speciation despite hundreds of years of selective breeding even with “intelligent” selection!

    What I am ultimately trying to say is, I am quite skeptical that we have discovered ALL the means by which speciation occurs.
    You can be a creationist or whatever else you’d like to be at this point. We barely understand how speciation really takes place, in the end we still only have theories.

    I have read Lee Spetner’s book “Not by Chance” which goes into the mathematics of speciation occurring exclusively by random mutation and natural selection. And it is astronomically improbable on its own terms, even given billions of years, let alone in the last few million years.

    This there HAVE to be forcing processes from the outside which we don’t know about yet. At this point we only guess into what they could be, and the rest is posturing.

    And on a related note, using evolution to explain behaviors and traits is like a religion, full of “just so” stories, in fields such as evolutionary psychology but also to explain pretty much ANY trait in a genetic fitness framework.

    These “just so” stories are so pervasive yet smack of a notoriously unscientific practice and framework. All one has to do is concoct a possible way by which a trait (proto-wings, homosexuality, men becoming sleepy after an orgasm — anything really) might confer some advantage. And the other way, such “just so” stories are used to “explain” the presence of certain traits as “the evolution of those traits” via totally untestable stories about the past.

    • Posted November 24, 2017 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      This statement is so misguided that it fits the dictum “not even wrong”. I can’t be arsed to enact the substantial labor it would take to fix your errors. I’ll just say one thing: there is tons of evidence for speciation, and ring species are not among them (we have no good evidence for any classical “ring species.”) Perhaps you aren’t aware that I wrote, with Allen Orr, what’s regarded as the definitive book in the field, “Speciation” (Sinauer, 2004), and it refutes virtually everything you say except that “we have discovered all the means by which speciation occurs”–a statement with which nobody would disagree.

      I suggest that you read my book to try to clear up your muddled ideas. There’s a whole chapter in there giving evidence that speciation is generally a product of natural selection.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted November 24, 2017 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      You mention Lee Spetner – yet another loon who puts a non-relevant “Dr.” before his name! Why DO they do that?

      He is a crank who bases his calculations on a straw man version of Darwinian evolution – in Spetner’s CALCULATIONS evolution is a random process only – no natural selection element is permitted.

      That’s on one side of the scale, but Spetner has his thumb firmly pressed on the other scale where he pushes his own theory rather uncritically. He believes in progressionism wherein organisms have an innate tendency to evolve towards some goal. What he calls the non-random evolution process [NREP] – the driver of which he leaves unexplained/ unarticulated while dissing Darwinian Evolution.

      Spetner is a 90 year old geezer now living in Israel who has never, ever troubled to read a biology book. He has absolutely no curiosity about any intellectual pursuit that might shatter his layman’s view of how biology works – you are cut from the same cloth sir!

  7. Posted November 24, 2017 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    See, this is why I seldom submit photos of arthropods. The obvious problem of quality notwithstanding, I seldom can provide secure species identifications and almost never informative commentary on relationships, habits, etc. So I really enjoy posts by readers who can do those things.

  8. Posted November 24, 2017 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant photos, ratabago! I guess cool butterflies must be really heavy, as a lot of them seem to fall to the Down Under.

  9. John Frum
    Posted November 24, 2017 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    I use Dipel to cut down on cabbage white moth damage to my veges and I believe it is regarded as organic as it is a naturally occurring bacteria that prevents the larvae from feeding.
    However it says to not spray if you will be consuming the veges soon but why not if the bacteria is only harmful to the larvae?

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted November 24, 2017 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

      Do you mean the larvae of the cabbage moth?
      Or the larvae of the cabbage white butterfly?
      It may be a regional terminology I’m not used to here in the UK!

      What brand & strain of diPel is that?
      What is the wording used exactly?

      DiPel [active ingredient Bacillus thuringiensis AKA Bt] comes in various strains designed for the target

      Bt is safe to use right up to the moment of harvest as long as you wash your veg.

      You may have misunderstood the instructions
      They might be telling you…
      [1] “However Bt takes time to act so it’s pointless spraying a plant on Tuesday that you aim to pick on Thursday” Thus don’t spray that plant immediately before picking – it’s a waste

      [2] “Don’t use Bt indiscriminately, frequently or wastefully – to avoid ‘naturally selecting’ resistant targets”

      Just my guesses – It’s one of my hobbies to sip a beer while watching my neighbour work He uses DiPel [two different strains] with glee, but he doesn’t grow cabbages. However he does know exactly what pests [by binomial] go with each plant he lovingly tends & what critters are his friends – so I suppose he knows what he’s doing! His potatoes are a treasure! 🙂

  10. Heather Hastie
    Posted November 24, 2017 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    Gorgeous pics ratabago! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  11. Posted November 24, 2017 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Nice post… nice shots, thanks.

  12. Posted November 25, 2017 at 3:59 am | Permalink

    Thank you for the pics. 🙂

  13. tjeales
    Posted November 26, 2017 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    I love these little butterflies. Lately I’ve been interested in photographing their larvae’s interaction with ants

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