Amathusia phidippus

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Palmking
Palm King (Amathusia phidippus).jpg
Conservation status
Not evaluated (IUCN 2.3)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Nymphalidae
Tribe: Amathusiini
Genus: Amathusia
Species: A. phidippus
Binomial name
Amathusia phidippus
(Linnaeus, 1763)

The Palmking (Amathusia phidippus) is a butterfly found in India and Southeast Asia. It belongs to the Morphinae, a subfamily of the Brush-footed butterflies.

Description[edit]

See glossary for terms used
AmathusiaPhidippus146 1.jpg

Male: upperside umber-brown. Fore wing with the costal margin narrowly fulvous near apex, crossing towards the termen, forming an obscure preapical band joining a subterminal lunular band of the same colour. Hind wing uniform, with a subterminal band as in the fore wing but not lunular, straight. Underside pale brown, with the following transverse pale lilac-white bands crossing both fore and hind wing: basal, subbasal, discal, postdiscal, broad subterminal and terminal; the subbasal and discal of equal width, meeting above the tornal angle in V-shape, the space between the two bands with, on the fore wing, two shorter similar bands crossing the cell, on the hind wing a single similar band from costa to median vein ; subterminal band on hind wing bent upwards above tornal area and continued halfway up the dorsal margin, the broadly-produced torn us with a dark brown spot; finally a large ochraceous ocellus in interspace 2, and a smaller similar one in interspace 6. Antennae reddish; head, thorax and abdomen umber-brown. Secondary sex-mark a glandular fold in membrane of wing shaded by tufts of long hair along vein 1 on upperside of hind wing, and preapically on the abdomen with tufts of stiff long hairs.[1]

Female: Upper and under sides as in the male but paler; on the upperside the fulvous along the costal margin widens into a preapical patch, and generally the bands on the underside show through and appear above as pale fulvous bands.[1]

Wingspan: 112–122 mm.

Eggs: The freshly laid eggs are creamy white with a small black spot in the centre and a black circular ring. The eggs are laid in a row. At Thenmala, we observed two rows, the first having 15 eggs and the second 3 eggs. Prior to hatching, the colour of the egg changes to black. Eggs hatch in 6 to 7 days.[G.Mathew & Pulikkal U., 2009]

Larvae: The first instar larvae are cylindrical, measuring 0.6 to 0.8 mm in length. The head is disproportionately large, round, black and shiny. The thoracic and abdominal segments are pale yellowish bearing slender, white hairs. The last segment has two black spines that look like tails with no additional hairs on them. The first moulting takes place on the fourth day.

The second instar larvae are pale greenish yellow measuring 0.8 to 1.2 mm in length. The head is black and globular with tiny slender white hairs. The hairs on the upper side of the thoracic segments are stouter than the rest of the body hairs and are directed towards the head. There are two pairs of diffused whitish lines that run from the dorsum of the first thoracic segment to the last abdominal segment. Three black spots are present on the upper side of third and fourth abdominal segments; the fifth, sixth and seventh segments have two each. The eighth abdominal segment has a characteristic wide-belly-bottle shaped black mark with its neck directed towards the ninth segment, which has an additional black spot. The last abdominal segment bears two black spines, which have many small hairs on them. As the larvae mature, the third thoracic segment develops a bright orange fold of skin which gives the caterpillar a peculiar striped appearance. After about five days of heavy eating and growth they undergo the second moulting.

The third instar larvae are morphologically very similar to the previous instar, but are longer (3 to 4 cm) and stouter. They are darker and more greenish than yellowish and had a striped appearance due to the wider body lines. The black spots increase in number and size giving a mottled appearance. The hairs of the thoracic segments, which are pointed to the front, grow stouter and longer almost hiding the greyish black head. The orange fold of skin over the third thoracic segment is also more prominent. The wide-belly-bottle shaped black mark appears more diffused and less prominent. The spines of the last segment grow paler. They rested for moulting on the fifth day.

The fourth instar larvae are stouter and longer measuring 4.5 to 5.0 cm. They almost lose their colours and become nearly black and white. The stripes become greyish white or white. The orange strap on the third thoracic segment almost disappear with only the skin fold left with longer bright white hairs. The body appears more mottled with black. The bottle-shaped mark becomes nearly indistinct and diffuse with the background. The spines on the last segment are greyish white. The fourth moulting occurs on the sixth day.

During the fifth instar, the larvae become more brownish than greyish and measure 7.0 to 7.5 cm in length. They appear very stout and strong. The hairs are now both white with scattered brownish ones. The head has a new hand-like appendage with four finger-like pointed branches. The thoracic hairs which project to the front nearly hide the head and appendages. The spines of the last segment are now of the same colour as the body. On the 12th and 13th day of the last instar, the larvae start to pupate.

Larvae of the Palm King are voracious feeders. Most of the time, they remain on the underside of the leaf, eating from the tip of the leaf working towards the base. The early instars prefer to remain in group and never strayed away. But, as they mature, some moved away from the group, the behaviour being most marked in the last instar and peaked towards the days of pupation. The later instars prefer to remain on the upper side of the leaf as well.

With regard to coloration, the fifth instars show marked difference in their ground colour: some being more brownish and some more greyish. A link between the body colour and the future sex of the adult has to be established with more studies. A larger number of the caterpillars have to be observed to establish this link. [G.Mathew & Pulikkal U., 2009]

Pupa: The process of pupation takes about half a day and resulted in a greenish spindle-shaped pupa, well-camouflaged among the pointed leaves of the host plant. Initially, they are semi-transparent but later they become more opaque. The pupa has veins and lines similar to that of the leaves of the host plant, all veins ending at the pointed lower end of the pupa. The pupa becomes transparent on the eve of hatching, with the wings and head clearly visible. The hatching takes place on the 12th and 13th day of pupation. Eclosion: All of the pupae hatched on two consecutive days between 8 a.m and 9 a.m. The imago rested for about an hour and went on wings to rest in the shady bushes nearby. [G.Mathew & Pulikkal U., 2009]

Distribution[edit]

This butterfly is widely distributed across parts of India, Myanmar, Indo China, Peninsular Malaysia and Thailand. It occurs in the Indonesian archipelago (Sundaland, Sulawesi. King island. Java, ?Bali, Sumatra. Nias. Bawean. Lombok. Natuna. Borneo. Palawan. Sulawesi and Banggai) and the Philippines (Bongao, Sanga Sanga, Tawitawi, Sibutu, Balabac, Negros, Mapun islands).[2]

The Palmking had been reported from Travancore (Kerala) in 1891 by Ferguson[citation needed] and has recently been rediscovered there by C. Susanth and his team (2007).[3] Evans also reported the Palmking to occur in "Bassein" today Vasai-Virar, (Thane district, Maharashtra)[4] but there have been no recent confirmed sightings there. It was Unni Krishnan Pulikkal who studied the life-stages, and photographically documented, for the first time in 2008.

Ecology[edit]

According to Horsfield (quoted in Bingham), the caterpillars feed on coconut leaves. They are cylindrical, light brown above; fifth to anal segment with rows of short fine hairs, anterior segments and head with longer, anteriorly projecting hairs; the head with a pair of lateral palmated processes, anal segment with two backward-projecting setose processes. Colour light pinkish brown above, ochraceous beneath, dark brown lateral and dorsal lines, a black transverse band on third and fourth segments. (Frederic Moore cited in Bingham).

The pupa is green; head bifid, elongate boat-shaped (Moore cited in Bingham).

At least on Borneo but probably elsewhere too, adults like many Morphinae do not generally visit carrion or old fruit to drink liquids.[5]

Footnotes[edit]

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6.G.Mathew & U.Pulikkal (2008)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Bingham (1905)
  2. ^ Savela (2007)
  3. ^ Susanth et al. (2007)
  4. ^ Evans (1932)[verification needed]
  5. ^ Hamer et al. (2006)