biologe

Blog and online journal with editorial content about science, art and nature.

Tag: close-up

Ancient villa of Pollius Felix in Sorrento/ Italy: a nature refuge

Ancient ruins around the Gulf of Naples

 

The area of the Gulf of Naples (Italy) is full of ancient Roman ruins. Besides famous excavation sites such as Pompeii or Herculaneum, also not so famous, but nevertheless very fascinating buildings from around the first century are preserved. An example is the (originally) huge villa of Pollius Felix nearby Sorrento.

 

Pollius Felix and his eccentric extended villa in Sorrento

 

Pollius Felix was a rich man and build several villas around the Gulf of Naples. But the one nearby Sorrento surely was his biggest and most eccentric domicil. He intended to unite the four elements water (sea), air, earth (rocks) and fire (artificial heating system? lava rocks?) in his architecture. Unfortunately only a part of the very extended villa is preserved. But impressively shows, how the Mediterranean Sea was made to a part of a private building. What the natives call „I Bagni della Regina Giovanna“ is a sea water bassin (may be of natural origin) that was connected via stairs and bridges with the ancient super house. A reconstruction of the whole villa by the way can be seen in the second floor of the Georges Vallet Archeological museum.

 

 

 

How to visit the ruins?

 

The ruins are accessible for free, but visitors need to have good walking and climbing conditions. First an about 20 minuts walk downwards to the sea through an old tight walkway is required. To access the major parts of the ruins themselves small pathways through mediterranean seaside vegetation is necessary. The sea water bassin can be reached via stairs. In summer, it is a popular place for (mostly native) swimmers.

 

Landscape and biodiversity

 

The whole area is covered with natural wild vegetation, private and non private gardens and olive groves. A remarkable biodiversity is present, and – depending from the season – alwas shows different faces. In spring, early summer and autumn, everything is greening and blooming, while in the hot summer season drought predominates. The area is a home for interesting Opiliones (harvestmen), Diplopodes, rose chafers, snails or lizards (Podarcis) and snakes (rarely). I visited „Villa Pollio Felice“ (also named Villa Limona) this time in spring/ early summer: April 2019. Unlike in autumn, when I mostl visited the Gulf of Naples in the past, different flowers covered the region. The most abundant species was Allium triquetrum, decorating lush meadows with their almost bell-shaped white blossoms.

 

Villa Pollio Felice/ Berlin April/June 2019 Copyrights Stefan F. Wirth

Orange tip butterfly Anthocharis cardamines

Anthocharis cardamines is a butterfly species, belonging to the big taxon Pieridae. Members of this group with about 1100 species worldwide are typically characterized by a more or less white color. There is even evidence that the popular term „butterfly“ refers to a pierid species, namely the brimstone, Gonepteryx rhamni, which British researchers considered as looking like a butter-colored fly.

The video introduces some morphological characters of a male specimen of Anthocharis cardamines. In this gender the most conspicuous character concerns the orange colored tip on the insides of both wings. That color character represents a sexual dimorphism, as female wings are completely white.

The quite common butterfly is distributed in Europe and temparate Asian zones. Interestingly adult A. cardamines strictly prefer specific habitats, which differ in males and females. While males inhabit the edge areas of forests close to adjacent meadows, females prefer the open meadows. Both genders fly only in a bright sunlight and strictly avoid the shadow, even then, when a suitable host plant for the egg deposition grows in a shady environment. Females select their mating partners using pheromones, which either attract or reject a male. Mated females in order of their egg deposition will always reject male approaches.

Other female pheromones are used as markers to characterize a host plant as already containing eggs. This will prevent a new egg deposition by another female specimen, which happens to improve a positive breeding success, as caterpillars show a cannibalistic behavior against other eggs. Host specificy, mating behaviors and reproductiion are result of evolution.

 

Berlin May/November 2018. Copyrights Stefan F. Wirth