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Brown-Veined White
2 Feb 2014

Brown-veined White 

It's that time of the year again when hordes of white butterflies are crossing the country. 

The white butterflies in South Africa (mainly Brown-veined Whites, Belenois aurota aurota - shown here in the photo) originate in the Kalahari and in other arid regions of the Northern Cape province. During some years, they have massive population explosions where the numbers get so big that they eat all the leaves off of the available food plants. If the adults stayed in that area, there would not be any food left for their larvae so they move off towards the east, and lay their eggs as they go along. They basically keep on flying until they die, but in many cases they actually reach the Indian Ocean and are often still seen flying into the sea.

- Megan Loftie-Eaton

Karoo Caco
26 Jan 2014

A Karoo Caco (Cacosternum karooicum)

The photo shown here is the only photographic record of this caco in the FrogMAP database!! It was submitted by Trevor Hardaker and photographed at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, Western Cape province. The Karoo Caco is endemic to the arid Karoo regions of the Western and Northern Cape provinces of South Africa, where it is known from only a few widely separated localities.

We definitely need more records of this lovely caco in the FrogMAP database. You can submit your photos here - if you have not registered as an ADU observer you yet can do it here - fill in your email address in the white block, you will receive an email with your password and then you can login with your details on the Virtual Museum website (

Happy FrogMAPping everyone!!

- Megan Loftie-Eaton

The Spotted Joker
22 Dec 2013

The Spotted Joker (Byblia ilithyia) belongs to the family Nymphalidae and is found in parts of Africa and Asia. There are 293 photographic records of Spotted Joker in the LepiMAP database, which seems a lot, but when you compare it to the total of 369 607 (historical and current) records... it really isn't that much at all. 

LepiMAP aims to map the 21st century distributions of Africa's Lepidoptera. You can join in on this awesome project by submitting your butterfly AND moth photos to LepiMAP at - if you have not registered as an ADU observer yet you can do it here - fill in your email address in the white block, you will receive an email with your password and then you can login with your details on the Virtual Museum website ( and start submitting your records.

Happy LepiMAPping!! 

~ Megan Loftie-Eaton

Hadogenes gunningi
15 Dec 2013

The scorpion in the photo is Hadogenes gunningi. It was photographed in Proteadal, Gauteng Province and submitted to ScorpionMAP ( by Luke Verburgt. This scorpion belongs to the Hemiscorpiidae family.

Scorpions are ancient animals, and fossil records indicate that they were already in existence about 425 – 450 million years ago during the Silurian period and evolved from an amphibious ancestor. They occur in habitats ranging from forest to deserts but it is in the arid areas that they are most common and diverse. Like the insects and spiders, scorpions belong to the phylum Arthropoda, and like the spiders they belong to the Arachnida but belong to a different order, Scorpiones

~ Megan Loftie-Eaton

Flat Caco Frog
17 Nov 2013

The Flat Caco (Cacosternum platys) is restricted to the Western Cape province of South Africa. The Flat Caco is a small frog with a maximum size of 22 mm. It has a narrow head, a wide body and colouration varies from grey to brown to green with dark spots and stripes. A pale vertebral line is sometimes present and a dark band from the eye to base of arm. This species has a smooth underside with small grey to black spots on its belly but not on the throat. 

The Flat Caco’s preferred habitat is flooded grassland and seepages, even at sea level. Their call is a series of pulsed chirps, starting slowly and gradually accelerating. Males call from concealed positions among vegetation at the edge of water. You can help us to map the Flat Caco’s distribution by submitting your photos to FrogMAP at The photo featured here is FrogMAP (formerly known as SAFAP) record number 397. The photo was taken near Klipheuwel in the Western Cape and is one of only 5 records of Flat Caco in the FrogMAP database!! 

 – Megan Loftie-Eaton

Sooty Blue
8 Nov 2013

TGIFF! Thank Goodness it's Flutterby Friday!! The butterfly in the photo is an African Grass Blue or Sooty Blue (Zizeeria knysna knysna) submitted to LepiMAP by Peter Webb ( The Sooty Blue is ubiquitous, but has a preference for suburban lawns.

This butterfly is widespread throughout South Africa and also occurs from Namibia to Mozambique and as far north as Morocco, Algeria and south-western Arabia.

You can contribute to LepiMAP by submitting your butterfly and moth photos at and here is a quick and easy How To Guide (in PDF format) that explains how to go about submitting records:

 - Megan Loftie-Eaton

22 Oct 2013

On Fridays at the Animal Demography Unit we celebrate FROG FRIDAY. And today we are featuring the Bufonidae famliy of toads. Bufonidae is the family of the true toads, members of the order Anura (frogs and toads). They are the only family of anurans in which all members are known as 'toads'. The bufonids now comprise more than 35 genera, Bufo being the most widespread and well known.

In southern Africa there are 6 genera within the Bufonidae family:
Amietophrynus (Typical toads)
Poyntonophrynus (Pygmy toads)
Vandijkophrynus (Van Dijk's toads)
Capensibufo (Mountain toadlets)
Schismaderma (Red toad)
Mertensophryne (Forest toads)

All the toads shown here in this photo are from the FrogMAP database ( - top left to right: Guttural Toad (submitted by Jason Boyce), Western Leopard Toad (submitted by Michael McSweeney), Flat-backed Toad (submitted by John Wilkinson) and bottom left to right: Raucous Toad (submitted by Rene Navarro), Karoo Toad (submitted by Trevor Hardaker), and Red Toad (submitted by G. Diedericks). 

~ Megan Loftie-Eaton

Baboon Spider
18 Oct 2013

The ADU's latest virtual museum is SpiderMAP!! The spider in the photo is a baboon spider that was photographed in West Coast National Park, Western Cape. You can view this SpiderMAP record here:

Baboon spiders belong to the family Theraphosidae. This family belongs to the suborder Mygalomorpha. This is a primitive spider group that some scientists believe should belong to its own order as, for example, the scorpions. These harmless giants are often negatively portrayed as villainous monsters especially in the movie industry, but they are not dangerous to man although they can inflict a painful bite. They are all mildly venomous, the venom being neurotoxic.

All the baboon spider species in South Africa are terrestrial occurring in underground burrows or scrapes under rocks. The scrape is lined with thick silk, which is attached to the rock and keeps out troublesome insects such as ants. At night, the burrow dwellers can be seen with their front legs and eyes showing at the entrance of their burrows as they wait for unsuspecting prey.

You can help us to map all the awesome spiders of South Africa by submitting your photos to SpiderMAP at

~ Megan Loftie-Eaton 

6 Aug 2013

QUESTION: This UFO is a Myrmeleontidae of the order Neuroptera, but what exactly is it?
CLUES: Eyes at the side of the head; closed wings held parallel to a slender body; not that great at flying... They also exhibit a remarkable transformation through their lifecycle.
This one was seen near Maclear in the Eastern Cape at Woodcliffe Farm (-30.995, 28.1745), which has the Little Pot River running through it and offers some excellent flyfishing. These look very similar to a flyfisher's darling, the damselfly, which is often imitated to tempt trout. 
ANSWER: This is an adult Antlion, colloquially known as a Lacewing.

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