A fun competition for prizes and discovery
In what may be a world first, scientists are teaming up with gamers to map and discover butterflies and moths. From 5-21 January, gamers of all ages will be using their mobile phones to compete for prizes as they find and photograph some of nature’s most fascinating creatures - a group of insect known as Lepidoptera.
“Butterflies and moths just seem so unlikely in a world where evolution appears to favour brute strength." says Dr Don Herbison-Evans, who runs a website called Australian Caterpillars. "They’re so beautiful and yet seem so vulnerable.”
The competition, “Butterfly and Moth Madness,” is part of a monthly series of “BioQuests” offered on the mobile gaming app, QuetsaGame. Experts help the players learn more about what they’ve found, while the biodiversity data helps with environmental research and conservation.
Based on QuestaGame’s previous BioQuests, the event is likely to produce some fascinating finds - including some new species.
In December QuestaGame held an “Arachnid Adventure,” a two-week BioQuest in which players competed to find and identify spiders and their relatives. The event resulted in over 1600 sightings, with 121 different types of spiders mapped - at least six of which, according to experts, are probably new species.
“We’ve had first time users of QuestaGame find new species,” says David Haynes, co-founder of QuestaGame. “One player found a new species of spider while hanging out laundry.”
For many of the players, however, it’s as much about just getting outdoors, having an adventure and seeing the world in a new way.
“People are often surprised at the beauty and the diversity they see when they take the time to look a little bit closer at the life around them,” says Haynes. “This is true with butterflies, and especially true with moths.”
Scientists have formally described 180,000 species of Lepidoptera. But there are tens of thousands without proper scientific records, or completely unknown. QuestaGame players offer scientists a fresh set of eyes to provide new insights into this remarkable group of insects.
“Professional entomologists are mainly employed to study the minority of species that are agricultural pests, so this leaves the responsibility for looking after the majority of butterflies and moths to amateur observers,” adds Herbison-Evans.
“We definitely expect players to find some new species of moths during the BioQuest,” says Haynes, “There are so many yet-to-be-discovered species out there; and they’re not hard to find either - a little light in the night, and they’ll come to you.”
The ‘Butterfly and Moth Madness’ BioQuest runs from the 5th to 21st of January. Entry is $10 (USD), or free for QuestaGame members. Prizes are sponsored by the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary and Biome.
For more information, or to sign up, visit questagame.com/bioquest-jan2018
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