Thursday, July 10, 2014

Thailand: Butterfly Portraits

Chain Swordtail (Graphium (Pathysa) aristeus hermocrates), Lesser Zebra (Graphium macareus)
In my last post I introduced you to the vast swarm of puddling butterflies that we saw in March 2013 on our excursion to Thailand's Kaeng Krachan National Park (with a few singletons thrown in). In this post I want to give you a closer look at some of the individual species that we saw in the swarm, plus a few others that, as far as I could see, held aloof. We'll start with the two commonest species of swallowtail in the swarm, the Chain Swordtail (Graphium (Pathysa) aristeus hermocrates) on the left and the Spotted Zebra (Graphium megarus megapenthes) on the right, crossing each other like a pair of heraldic symbols on a lepidopterist's coat of arms.

The Chain Swordtail is a wide-ranging species, extending from northern India to Australia.  I would have thought that it owed its English name to the chain of red spots on the underside of the hindwing, but it turns out to to refer to the (to me) far less distinctive chain of yellow spots crossing the dark outer border of the forewing.

Fivebar Swordtail (Pathysa antiphates itamputi)
Far more attractive - and, indeed, one of my favorite butterflies - is the Fivebar Swordtail (Pathysa antiphates itamputi).  It is a frequent puddler, but we only saw a few at the Kaeng Krachan swarm.  This one has survived an attack by something - a bird, probably - that made off with its long "tails" but left the insect otherwise intact.  Its survival is a nice indication of the value of providing predators with a seemingly-edible, but non-vital, distraction.

Lesser Zebra (Graphium macareus)
Though the Spotted Zebra is also a Graphium, it doesn't have tails to begin with.  It has given them up in the course of acquiring a different defense against predators: a close resemblance to one of the unpleasant-tasting butterflies of the nymphalid subfamily Danaiinae.  This sort of deception was first described by the great nineteenth-century naturalist (and terrific travel writer) Henry Walter Bates, and is known as Batesian Mimicry in consequence (when two equally foul-tasting, but unrelated, butterflies come to resemble each other, the result is Müllerian Mimicry).

Red Helen (Papilio helenus helenus), Blue King Crow (Euploea cf camaralzeman)
Here, a non-mimetic swallowtail, the spectacular Red Helen (Papilio helenus helenus), poses for comparison next to a butterfly that I first took for a genuine Danaiine, the Blue King Crow (Euploea camaralzeman), but that turns out to be the quite rare Siamese Raven (Papilio castor mahadeva),  another mimetic swallowtail. Amazingly enough, there is also a moth here, Cyclosia inornata, that mimics butterflies of this type. This one, however, has knobs on the tips if its antennae (you can see them in the photo), so you can tell that it is certainly a butterfly. 

The observant among you will notice that these butterflies are not, primarily, either red or blue, but are, respectively, mostly black and brown.  Yes, the Helen has some red spots near its tail (perhaps birds are supposed to mistake them for eyes, and, once again, attack the wrong end), and the Mime (if such it is) has a blue gloss in some lights, but I confess that the rationale for butterfly naming continues to escape me.

Paris Peacock (Papilio paris paris)
Paris Peacock (Papilio paris paris)
Certainly not a mimic of anything is the stunning Paris Peacock (Papilio paris paris), an Indochinese butterfly near the southern end of its range in Kaeng Krachan. It is one of a series of swallowtails whose upper wings are dusted with iridescent green scales, giving them an emerald luster when the light is right (or the flash is working).

Orange Gull (Cepora iudith), Striped Albatross  (Appias olferna), Common Gull (Cepora nerissa)
On to the Pieridae, the other family (besides the swallowtails) to dominate the puddling swarm. As I noted in my last post, the brilliance of some of these butterflies is startling for a Northerner used to thinking of pierids in terms of dull whites and cloudy yellows.  Here, as Exhibit A, is an Orange Albatross (Appias nero) taking flight above an almost equally bright Orange Gull (Cepora iudith) and some duller Common Gulls (Cepora nerissa).

Common Albatross (Appias albina)
The Common Albatross (Appias albina) may be less colourful, but I find it a rather ethereal creature. 

Orange Albatross  (Appias nero)
Orange Albatross  (Appias nero)
Its cousin the Orange Albatross  (Appias nero) is, all the same, a gorgeous creature, though (at least in photographs) the brilliance of its orange coloration seems to shift with the light. 

Lemon Emigrant (Catopsila pomona)
Another of the more ethereal-looking pierids, this time more of a yellow than a white: a Lemon Emigrant (Catopsila pomona). As their name suggests these butterflies are migrants. Large swarms at puddling spots may be travelers, pausing to top up on mineral salts before heading on their way. 

Yellow Orange Tip (Ixias pyrene)
The Yellow Orange Tip (Ixias pyrene) is certainly colourful, but it's appearance may not be so startling to a northerner because quite similar-looking butterflies occur in the temperate zone as well - including, for example, the Falcate Orangetip (Anthocharis midea), common in much of the eastern United States. 

Red-spot Sawtooth (Prioneris philonome clemanthe)
Temperate North America, however, certainly has nothing to match the Red-spot Sawtooth (Prioneris philonome clemanthe). I talked about this spectacular species in my last post, but I couldn't resist displaying it again here.

Spangle (Papilio protenor euprotenor), Common Cruiser (Vindula erota erota)
The butterfly on the left of this picture is another swallowtail, the Spangle (Papilio protenor euprotenor). Presumably it is not attempting to look like a butterfly of any other family, though it certainly lacks the pronounced tails of the otherwise rather similar Red Helen (some races of this species lack tails altogether). The other butterfly in the picture, though, belongs to a third family, the brush-footed butterflies (Nymphalidae) - one represented by many species in the park generally but with comparatively few individuals descending into the midst of the puddling swarm. This one, a Common Cruiser (Vindula erota erota), is an apparent exception; Vindula spp. Are a frequent sight on salty soil. 

Common Cruiser (Vindula erota erota)
Common Cruiser (Vindula erota erota)
The Common Cruiser is very similar to a butterfly I see commonly in Malaysia, the Malay Cruiser (or, simply, Cruiser) (Vindula dejone), but is less strongly marked; in particular, it lacks the Malay Cruiser's dark blotching at the tip of the forewing.

Cirrochroa or Phalanta sp?
This one really had me stumped, but thanks to Les Day I can now tell you that it is The Rustic (Cupha erymanthis erymanthis), a common nymphalid of forest edge.  Apparently one capitalizes the "The".

Autumn Leaf (Doleschallia bisaltide)
I'm on a bit firmer ground with this one, an Autumn Leaf (Doleschallia bisaltide), one of the remarkable series of Asian and African leaf mimic butterflies. With their wings closed they are easy to mistake for genuine leaves, though admittedly genuine dried leaves don't usually sit upright on the forest floor. The dark streak running down the center of the underside of its wings does look quite like the midrib of a leaf, though the resemblance is by no means as exact as in the"true" leaf butterflies of the genus Kallima (you'll have to wait for my next-post-but-one to see one of those).
Common Faun Butterfly (Faunis canens)
There are a number of nymphalid butterflies that are most commonly found in the leaf litter of the forest floor, where their mostly brown underwings provide them with, as long as they keep still, highly successful camouflage. This one is a Common Faun (Faunis canens), a member of a subfamily, Morphinae, that includes some of the most brilliantly iridescent butterflies in the world. It is, though, rather small and plain by comparison to its relatives, and while many of the other morphos are butterflies of the forest canopy this one keeps low to the ground, even in flight. 

Red-spot Duke (Euthalia evelina)
The Euthalia butterflies and their relatives, for some reason, have been assigned names usually reserved for members of the British aristocracy: Baron, Marquis, or Duke. They can be hard to tell apart, but this one, the Red-spot Duke (Euthalia (Dophla) evelina) - named, for once, for a mark that actually stands out - is actually pretty distinctive. Like its relatives this is another forest floor butterfly, where it has been found feeding on the juices of fallen, overripe fruits. 

Great Marquis (Euthalia (Bassarona) dunya)
Great Marquis (Euthalia (Bassarona) dunya)
This Great Marquis (Euthalia (Bassarona) dunya) is presumably an old individual - certainly it is the worse for wear.  Whereas many forest-floor nymphalids wear their camouflage on the underside of their wings - like he Autumn Leaf and the Faun - this species seems to do the reverse, with the underside being considerably the more conspicuous surface, at least to my eyes.  Is this because Euthalia butterflies tend to perch with their wings open, like a moth, instead of folded as most butterflies do, so that when it rests on the leaf litter the upper side is the one we see?  

Marbled Map (Cyrestis cocles earli)
Cyrestis butterflies - the maps or mapwings - are named for cartography, not nobility.  This Marbled Map (Cyrestis cocles earli), an uncommon butterfly in Malaysia, was new to me, so please forgive the less-than-stellar photograph (this one was visiting the puddling swarm, and the white blob disfiguring its portrait is a pierid butterfly taking off as I lean in with the camera).

Common Map (Cyrestis thyodamas thyodamas)
Common Map (Cyrestis thyodamas thyodamas)
I was much more familiar with this Common Map (Cyrestis thyodamas thyodamas), a species I have shown here before.  Nonetheless I find it a most arresting creature, certainly the most striking of the nymphalids in this gallery, and, therefore, not a bad one to end my two-part survey of the butterflies of Kaeng Krachan.  A final "Thank you" to Les Day for correcting some of my initial mis- (or non-) identifications, and a reminder to those of you who enjoyed this post to head on over to SamuiButterflies for Les's far more extensive tour of the butterflies of Thailand.

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