Butterflies of Africa
Common Silverspot
Aphnaeus orcas DRURY, 1782
subfamily - LYCAENINAE
Aphnaeus orcas, female, Kakum national park, Ghana Adrian Hoskins
The tribe Aphnaeini includes 226 African species, most of which found south of the Sahara although a few, in the genus Cigaritis, reach as far north as Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. The Aphnaeini are also represented by several Spindasis species in the Oriental region.
The butterflies are noted for the beautiful and intricate patterns on the undersurface of the wings, particularly those in the genera Spindasis ( Silverlines ), Axiocerses ( Scarlets ) and Aphnaeus.
In conjunction with the well-developed "false-antennae" tails and forward-canted resting posture, these patterns help to create the illusion that the butterfly is facing back-to-front. Any bird aiming to attack a butterfly will try to anticipate the direction in which it will try to escape. Accordingly it will aim its attack just ahead of what it believes to be the head, but the back-to front illusion fools it into aiming at the tail, and the butterfly is able to make it's escape in the opposite direction.
There are 19 species in the genus Aphnaeus, all African. Some are adapted to breed in rainforests, while others are found in savannah habitats.
Aphnaeus orcas occurs in Sierra Leone, Gold Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Congo, Zaire, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.
This is a forest species, found at altitudes between sea level and about 1000m.
The larval foodplants include Alchornea ( Euphorbiaceae ) and Albizia ( Leguminosae ).
Adult behaviour

The butterflies are always encountered singly. They can sometimes be found at rest on the leaves of bushes, but are more frequently seen nectaring at flowering bushes and shrubs. When settled they are surprisingly difficult to spot, as the pattern which is so striking when seen closely is also very effective at breaking up the shape of the butterfly - a type of camouflage known as disruptive colouration.



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