Philip DeVries to Deliver Storer Lecture on 'What Butterflies Tell us About Tropical Diversity'
Feb. 3, 2012 Watch the video
Philip DeVries with morpho butterfly. (Photo by Carla Penz)
Tropical ecologist Philip DeVries of the Department of Biological Sciences, University of New Orleans, will present the next Storer Life Sciences Endowment Lecture on "What Butterflies Tell Us About Tropical Diversity" at 4:10 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 9 in 2 Wellman Hall. (Download flier)
Professor Phil Ward of the UC Davis Department of Entomology is the host. Faculty and graduate students who wish to meet with DeVries may contact Ward at email@example.com. The lecture, part of "Major Issues in Modern Biology," is sponsored by the College of Biological Sciences' Storer Life Sciences Endowment.
From the flier issued by the College of Biological Sciences::
"Professor Philip DeVries is renowned for his pioneering fieldwork in tropical habitats and has
made original discoveries on many species, along with studies of the evolutionary and
ecological processes that influence tropical diversity. The focus of his research has been on
insect ecology and evolution, especially butterflies, while covering a range from empirical to
theoretical. His best-known work includes symbioses between caterpillars, ants and plants,
and community level biodiversity of rainforest butterflies. In addition to his research, DeVries
has been involved with natural history documentary films as a writer, scientific advisor and on camera
presenter for production companies such as National Geographic Partridge film, and
Oxford Scientific films, among many others. Fifteen of these documentaries have been
televised globally by National Geographic Channel, BBC Television, and Scientific American
Frontiers. Dr. DeVries has received Fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation, the
Guggenheim and Dodge Foundations, as well as a Fellowship from the Smithsonian Institute."
DeVries, a native of Detroit, received his doctorate in 1987 from the Department of Zoology, University of Texas, Austin. (See more about his academic career and honors.)
"As a tropical ecologist. I am concerned with two great realities of the 20th century: the catastrophic destruction of biodiversity, and the dissolution of first-hand human knowledge about organisms and the habitats where they occur," DeVries writes on his website.
DeVries drew international attention several years ago when he videotaped a long-tongued hawk moth, Morgan's Sphinx (Xanthopan morgani) pollinating Darwin's orchid (Angraecum sesquipedale) in a Madagascar rain forest. Background of the moth and orchid: Naturalist Charles Darwin examined the orchid in 1862 and famously predicted in his book Fertilisation of Orchids that there must be in existence a moth with a long- enough tongue (proboscis) to be able to pollinate it. The nectar spur is about 12 to 14 inches long. The moth itself was discovered in Madagascar in 1903--correctly proving Darwin's prediction of its existence-- but no one saw it pollinate the orchid until DeVries recorded it. Since pollination occurs only at night, DeVries used infrared light to capture the scene.
"The video," Coyne wrote, "was made in Madagascar by a friend of mine, Phil DeVries from the University of New Orleans, a remarkable—and, as you’ll see, intrepid—naturalist, and author of the two-volume Butterflies of Costa Rica and their Natural History.
"It’s really lovely to see how excited Phil gets when he finally sees the pollination," wrote Coyne. "Those are the juicy moments that every naturalist lives for."
--Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Department of Entomology