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Blue Nawab.jpg
Polyura schreiber
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Nymphalidae
Genus: Charaxes
Subgenus: Polyura
Billberg, 1820

Many, see text

Polyura is a subgenus of butterflies also referred to as Nawab butterflies[1][2] and belonging to the brush-footed butterfly subfamily Charaxinae, or leafwing butterflies. Like the large and conspicuous forest queens (subgenus Euxanthe), they belong to the genus Charaxes, unique genus of the tribe Charaxini.[3][4]


Polyura butterflies are native to the Indomalayan and Australasian realms. They are widespread from Pakistan to Okinawa Island, and from China to Pacific Islands (Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu).



The subgenus was revised in 1982 by Robert Leslie Smiles based on morphological characters.[2]

The genus Polyura was synonymized with the genus Charaxes in 2009 in a study investigating phylogenetic relationships among Charaxini using DNA sequencing.[3] However the genus Charaxes comprises many morphologically very different groups such as the subgenera Euxanthe and Polyura. A phylogenomic study is ongoing to resolve the phylogenetic placements of these different groups. The sister-group to Polyura seems to comprise the African species Charaxes paphianus and Charaxes pleione.[3][4] Southeast Asian species of the genus Charaxes do not seem to be closely related to species of the subgenus Polyura.[3]

A comprehensive molecular phylogeny of the subgenus as well as several taxonomic studies have allowed a complete revision of the group.[4][5][6] A follow-up study investigating the biogeographical history of the subgenus suggested an origin in the Miocene about 12 million years ago in mainland Asia. The Australasian region was colonized later through dispersal.


The subgenus is divided in three morphological groups supported by molecular phylogenetics:[4][5][6]

P. athamas group:

  • Charaxes agrarius (Swinhoe, 1887) – Anomalous nawab – southern India, Burma
  • Charaxes alphius (Staudinger, 1886) – Staudinger's nawab – Sulawesi, Timor
  • Charaxes arja (C. & R. Felder, [1867]) – Pallid nawab – north-eastern India, Sikkim, Assam, Burma, Thailand, Indochina
  • Charaxes athamas (Drury, [1773]) – Common nawab
  • Charaxes attalus (C. & R. Felder, 1867) - Java, Sumatra
  • Charaxes bharata (Leech, 1891) – India
  • Charaxes hebe (Butler, [1866]) – Plain nawab
  • Charaxes jalysus (C. & R. Felder, [1867]) – Malaysia, Sunda Islands, Thailand
  • Charaxes luzonicus (Rothschild, 1899) – Philippines
  • Charaxes moori (Distant, 1883) – Malayan nawab – Malaysia, Sunda Islands
  • Charaxes paulettae (Toussaint, 2015) – India, Pakistan, Thailand
  • Charaxes schreiber (Godart, [1824]) – Blue nawab

P. eudamippus group:

P. pyrrhus group:


  1. ^ a b Billberg, 1820; Enum. Ins. Mus. Billb. : 79
  2. ^ a b Smiles, R. L. (1982). The taxonomy and phylogeny of the genus Polyura Billberg (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae). British Museum (Natural History).
  3. ^ a b c d Aduse-Poku, K., Vingerhoedt, E., & Wahlberg, N. (2009). Out-of-Africa again: A phylogenetic hypothesis of the genus< i> Charaxes</i>(Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) based on five gene regions. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 53(2), 463-478.
  4. ^ a b c d Toussaint EFA, Morinière J, Müller CJ, Kunte K, Turlin B, Hausmann A, Balke M (2015) Comparative molecular species delimitation in the charismatic Nawab butterflies (Nymphalidae, Charaxinae, Polyura). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 91: 194-209.
  5. ^ a b New Insights into the Systematics of the Genus Polyura Billberg, 1820 (Nymphalidae, Charaxinae) with an Emphasis on the P. athamas Group », Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society, vol. 70, no 2, 1er juin 2016, p. 145–152
  6. ^ a b Toussaint, E.F., Morinière, J., Lam, A. and Turlin, B., 2016. Bayesian Poisson tree processes and multispecies coalescent models shed new light on the diversification of Nawab butterflies in the Solomon Islands (Nymphalidae, Charaxinae, Polyura). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 178(2), pp.241-256.