Saturday, July 22, 2006

Small copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

The taxon of the week is the small copper (Lycaena phlaeas) . Indeed, after a false start last week, the small copper will claim the coveted title of Jurisdynamics' mascot and henceforth grace the top of this blog. A very small small copper will serve as the favicon for Jurisdynamics in the Internet browsers and bookmark files of this blog's readers.

The small copper wins these coveted honors not because it is commercially valuable, threatened or endangered with extinction, or otherwise subjected to careful legal scrutiny. Indeed, I have chosen the small copper as Jurisdynamics' mascot precisely because subspecies of Lycaena phlaeas are widely distributed across North America and all three continents of World Island. As Holly Doremus reminded us in The Special Importance of Ordinary Places, 23 Environs 3, 4 (2000), "[t]hose of us who love nature ... need to think about saving ordinary places and ordinary things."

The embodiment of biological populism, the small copper lives in a wide variety of habitats in Europe, Asia, north Africa, and North America. Perhaps no other place on earth, though, is as readily associated with the small copper as Great Britain. For its part, Britain has played host to one of the most comprehensive and frightening studies of biodiversity loss. A 2004 article in Science magazine documented staggering losses across a wide variety of taxa. Because insects represent more than half of all fauna and respond more quickly to environmental change than most other animals, a decrease of 71 percent among butterfly species in Britain portends similar declines in other organisms. These losses confirm, sadly, "that the biological world is approaching the sixth major extinction event in its history."

Notice: This picture of a small copper was taken by Olaf Leillinger on May 16, 1998, has been deposited within the Wikipedia Commons, and now is displayed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License and the GNU Free Documentation License.


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