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A world of species to discover


Vesubia jugorum (F. Tomasinelli)

Although most people notice the larger and more active species like mammals or birds, actually Earth is the invertebrates' world, both for the number of species present, and for the inestimable quantity of individuals. They play a fundamental ecological role in every environment on the planet, to a point where without them our world would not be as we know it.

The Park's invertebrates are no exception to this rule. As conservation of biodiversity has been accepted as an indispensible strategy to counter climate change, the two Parks, Mercantour and Alpi Marittime, have decided to take up an important challenge: to census every biological species in the area, involving many European scientists and research groups, coordinated by the EDIT institute. The first results can be seen on the portal The research has brought to light over 1353 invertebrates, not counting those already counted in previous studies.

The insect class is one of the more symbolic groups in the animal kingdom, although it is often poorly understood. For the Park only some groups were well known like Lepidoptera, whilst there have been partial studies of Hymenoptera, in particular ants, Coleoptera (Carabidae, Cerambycidae, and Scarabaeidae), or acquatic insects (Plecoptera, Ephemeroptera, Diptera, Trichoptera).

The variety of species present confirms, yet again, the importance of this site for its high biodiversity: the low mobility of many species the presence of plenty of microhabitats, the mixture of continental and Mediterranean climates mean that each new search brought to light species as yet uncatalogued or endemic to a very limited area.

Just to give a few numbers, over 1000 Lepidoptera species were identified in the area, amongst these some very rare species, like the large Papilio alexanor and Parnassius phoebus, the rare Callimorpha quadripunctaria, the small butterfly Eudarcia palanfreella described for the first time in 2001. The list is almost endless.

There are some interesting rare beetles like the Carabus solieri, a species which indicates a certain complexity in the forest environment in which it lives, or Haptoderus nicaensis, a very interesting species for its very localised distribution.

It might surprise you that we also have slavemaker ants, Polyergus rufescens, who induce another species to work for the dominant colony. An Arthropod worth mentioning is a member of the wolf spiders, or spiders that run on land: Vesubia jugorum is a species endemic to the South West Alps, where it lives on the rocks and tallus of the crystalline massif.

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