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by Gordon F. Pratt, Ph. D, Dennis Walker, Joseph Zarki, and John F. Emmel, M. D.
In The Butterflies and Skippers of Joshua Tree National Park, the authors illustrate and discuss all 95 species known from the park and environs (such as the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve). This is a helpful field guide to the butterflies one may encounter on a visit to the park, but also an in-depth account of these insects within their desert habitats. With a text by Gordon Pratt (a retired UC Riverside entomology professor and lifelong lepidopterist), there is more emphasis than usual on the food plants of each butterfly and on the pre-adult parts of the life cycle (egg, caterpillar, and chrysalis, and their timing). There is more to butterflies than the show they put on while flying from flower to flower on sunny days. They have co-evolved with various plants in a variety of challenging habitats, evading and fooling predators, perhaps advertising their toxicity or seeming to disappear thanks to their camouflage. By treating the butterflies as part of the larger natural context, the authors hope to present a different way of seeing not just the adult butterflies one may see on a hike, but the world the butterflies inhabit throughout their life cycle, whether at Joshua Tree or in one’s own backyard.