The King of Tropical Butterflies

Philip James DeVries PhD (born March 7, 1952) is a tropical biologist whose research focuses on entomology and evolution, especially butterflies. His best-known work includes symbioses between caterpillars, ants and plants, and community level biodiversity of rainforest butterflies.

During the late 1970s, DeVries was a curator of Lepidoptera at the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica as a Peace Corps volunteer where he built the country’s first major butterfly collection. DeVries traveled widely around Costa Rica, studying and making observations on butterflies. This eventually provided a large body of information that formed the basis for his two volumes entitled "The Butterflies of Costa Rica and their Natural History" (vol. 1 and 2).

In Costa Rica he interacted with many field biologists, including Daniel Janzen, Stephen Hubbell, Gary Stiles, Luis Diego Gómez, Isidro A. Chacón, Gordon B. Small, Alwyn H. Gentry, Robin Foster, Lawrence E. Gilbert, Michael C. Singer, Paul R. Ehrlich, and Russell Lande. DeVries attended the University of Texas at Austin from 1980 to 1987 where he earned a PhD in Zoology. His doctoral work focused on the widespread symbioses between butterfly caterpillars, ants and plants, which he popularized under the nickname “Singing caterpillars”.

In 1982, DeVries received a fellowship from the Fulbright Program to visit The Natural History Museum in London (then British Museum of Natural History), where he spent a year preparing the first volume of his “The Butterflies of Costa Rica” book. There he collaborated with Richard I. Vane-Wright, Phillip R. Ackery, Bernard d’Abrera, Ian J. Kitching, Henry S. Barlow, and other curators and visitors deeply rooted in the history of butterfly biology, evolution and systematics. In 1988, DeVries received a MacArthur Fellowship that allowed him to travel broadly in pursuit of tropical biology in Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador and Argentina. Through the MacArthur Fellows Program, he became close friends with the artists Lee Friedlander, Steve Lacy, John T. Scott, Brad Leithauser, and the historian Cornell Fleischer.

Among other countries, DeVries has done field research in Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Madagascar,Bhutan, Australia, Borneo, Malaysia. For over 20 years, DeVries has been involved with natural history documentary films as a writer, scientific advisor and on-camera presenter for production companies such as National Geographic, Partridge Films, Oxford Scientific Films, Big Wave TV, Wildfilms, Grenada, and Green Umbrella Films.