My first ever publication in a scientific journal

As you will see, if you open the full paper, it has been a long process to get my first paper published in a scientific journal. In fact, it was significantly longer than paper suggests.

It all started back in May 2015 when I spotted what at first appeared to be a beetle eating the leaf of a Mangrove Fan Palm (Licuala spinosa Wurmb).

First sighting of the caterpillar

On closer inspection, it turned out to be the head of a caterpillar. I photographed it and posted online to seek the ID of the caterpillar. No-one knew, so I collected the caterpillar along with it’s leaf and put them in a tub to see what it would turn into. It was very fortunate that I collected it that day because it started to prepare for pupation the very next morning, having eaten it’s entire leaf. It was stitching itself into a leaf that was meant to be food for a different caterpillar I was rearing at the same time.

Stitching in, ready to pupate

For its own safety, I transferred it to another container and waited for it to emerge. 12 days later a butterfly emerged. It turned out to be the rare skipper known as “Veined Palmer” or “Cresentric Skipper”, Hidari bhawani de Nicéville [1989].

Newly emerged adult male of Hidari bhawani.

I mentioned this to my friend, Les Day, who told me that this was new information (i.e. no-one had previously reported the larva or host plant of Hidari bhawani) and I should write a paper to publish it. I made an extremely poor attempt at writing a paper then but gave up on the idea.

In early 2019, I decided that I really ought to try to get this information published. I wrote a “Short Communication” with the aim of getting it published in the Cambodian Journal of Natural History. I sent it to Les and another friend, Oleg Kosterin, for review, made suggested changes and submitted it in February. In April, while I was on a trip to the UK, I received rather a lot of comments from the CJNH reviewers, unfortunately many related to missing information that I could not provide because I hadn’t recorded it. For example, I did not take a single photograph of the pupa! There were also suggestions to expand the paper to include comparison with the larva and host plants of other species in the Hidari genus. To be honest, I was a little despondent and almost gave up on the idea. When I got back from the UK, I was busy on other things for a while.

In July, I decided to get back to it and started to make the necessary changes to the paper. I was then very fortunate one evening to be sitting at the bar of 4 Rivers Floating Lodge with my friend, Vanessa Herr, when I spotted a skipper butterfly ovipositing (laying eggs) on the small Mangrove Fan Palm plant they have in their little garden between the bar and restaurant. I went over and took a photo. It turned out to be Hidari bhawani. I could not believe my luck!

Hidari bhawani ovipositing

The next day I went back and collected three eggs and a caterpillar that I found on the same plant.

Hidari bhawani egg

A few days later the two of the eggs hatched. Unfortunately, the third never did. After eating their own egg shells, the little caterpillars soon got busy making shelters in bits of leaf of Mangrove Fan Palm.

First instar larva of Hidari bhawani, making a shelter.

I recorded the development of the two caterpillars that hatched and the other one I collected. Unfortunately, neither caterpillar that hatched in captivity survived, so I was unable to record the complete life history. The other caterpillar survived, pupated and emerged as an adult female.

Second instar larva of Hidari Bhawani.
Penultimate instar larva of Hidari bhawani.
Final instar larva of Hidari bhawani.
Prepupa of Hidari bhawani.
Pupa of Hidari bhawani.
Newly emerged adult female of Hidari bhawani.

Armed with all this new information, I set about totally rewriting my paper. In addition, when I started looking for reference to the Hidari genus as a whole, I discovered that its occurrence in Cambodia had not yet been recorded in a scientific publication, despite being listed on my website for years. Given the suggestion of the original reviewers to included details of other species in the genus, I then decided that I needed to expand the scope of my paper to record their occurrence in Cambodia.

I submitted the rewrite at the end of September and received review comments a month later. There were a lot of comments! It took me until 18 November (only two days before the deadline for submitting the revised document) to make the majority of changes, and to justify why I wasn’t making the others. On 7 December, I has very happy (and relieved) to receive an email to say it had been accepted. The only remaining task was to review the proof.

This morning I received an email to say it has now been published.

Citation: Chartier, G. (2019) Discovery of the genus Hidari Distant, 1886 (Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae: Hesperiinae) in Cambodia and life cycle of Hidari bhawani de Nicéville [1889]. Cambodian Journal of Natural History, 2019, 121–127.

The Cambodian Journal of Natural History can be obtained freely online: https://www.fauna-flora.org/publications/cambodian-journal-natural-history

I am very grateful to CJNH and, in particular to the editor, Neil Furey, and the anonymous reviewers for their patience with me as a newbie to the task of writing papers. I felt like giving up at times, and I suspect they might have had some similar feelings. Thankfully, they all agreed that the subject of the paper needed to be published, and they were willing to persevere with my efforts to do so in a scientific manner.

Gerard Chartier
Author: Gerard Chartier

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