The Málaga Coast is 175 kilometres long. The largest part of this coast was urbanized over the last few decades, and some buildings even reached the beaches or the sea. Today, the beaches in the province are mostly sandy, although some of them consist of different pebbles. Next to them, there are zones which went through an urbanization process, and have sea fronts flanked by wide green areas and buildings with large gardens. To a lesser extent, the coast of Málaga also has cliffs, rocks, ledges and dunes, as well as stream or river mouths. These natural places have preserved relic vegetation, which became adapted to the salinity of the coast, and they provide shelter to a limited number of important animal species.
There is to consider geographical features of the coast in order to understand the biota which can be found in the area. The Málaga Coast, which is placed in the south of the continent, close to Africa, to which is geologically and biologically linked, is highly varied in spite of going through the above transformation. Birds are the most representative animals, but there are also plenty of insects, above all diurnal butterflies.
The Province of Málaga has 110 diurnal species of butterflies. Twenty-eight of them can be seen on the Málaga Coastal Path (MCP) beside some other species. This may seem a low number, but, actually, it is not as one of four butterflies from the province can be found on this coast. If we consider the high level of environmental changes, this is a rather high number, and there is to keep in mind that some species have not been detected yet.
There are several reasons for this abundance of butterflies. On the one hand, migratory species from Africa must go through the Málaga Coast. The sparse native plant life, which is mostly placed at the river and stream mouths, coastal cliffs and dunes, shelter most of the known species despite having been altered. On the other side, the plants which can be found in towns, on sea fronts or in residential areas close to the beaches are rich in nectar so they are commonly visited by migratory species and butterflies which come from the nearby natural spots. In this case, the rivers and streams are a kind of ecological passage for these butterflies as well as some other creatures. Therefore, we must prevent rivers and streams from disappearing in their lower reaches when they go through urbanized areas.
Some of the famous butterflies along the Málaga Coastal Path are the following ones:
The Borbo Skipper (Veloz fenestrada) is considered to be endangered species in 'Libro Rojo de los Invertebrados de Andalucía' [The Red Book of the Andalusian Invertebrates]. Although the nearest known area where this butterfly's young can be found is close to the Campo de Gibraltar area in Cadiz, it has been extending throughout Andalusia and some of them have been ocassionally detected at different coastal spots in Málaga since 2013. This is why it will soon be found at some stretches of the Málaga Coastal Path, probably on its western side.
The Desert Orange Tip (Colotis del desierto) is an African species which comes to Europe when the weather is mild, looks for host plants for its caterpillars in the rocky slopes in Axarquía, and lays eggs in order to complete its cycle. Nevertheless, this species does not make permanent colonies.
The Monarch Butterfly (Monarca) has plenty of the colonies with its young close to the MCP, particularly in Marbella. It is relatively easy to see these butterflies along the trail which goes through this town, Estepona, and Mijas Costa, to a lesser extent. There is also one colony in a crowded park in Benalmadena Costa (coastal part of the town), and some members of the species can be seen along the Torremolinos Coast.
Vanessa cardui, known as the Painted Lady (Mariposa de los Cardos), is a native species, whose population becomes larger in number at the end of winter and beginning of spring when migratory butterflies come from Africa. During those years which suit this species, as it was March or April 2009, it can be seen going across the Alboran Sea and coming to the land from different parts of the Coastal Path, such as Punta de Calaburras Headland and the mouth of the Guadalhorce.
The following chart shows the butterflies that can be seen along the Málaga Coastal Path. Click on its name for more details.