Butterflies of Africa
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - BIBLIDINAE
Tribe - EURYTELINI
Bunso, Ghana ©
comprises of a single species - ethosea.
It is a strange butterfly, unique in appearance, and is so atypical
for a Nymphalid that it was once considered to be a member of the
Lipteninae ( Lycaenidae ). It has now for a long time been realised
that it is actually a member of the Biblidinae - a group of
butterflies with over 350 species worldwide, the vast majority of
which are Neotropical. In the Afrotropical region there 30 species,
in the genera Byblia,
Sevenia and Mesoxantha.
Mesoxantha ethosea is a largely west
African species, found from Sierra Leone to Cameroon and western
This species is found in primary and mildly degraded rainforest
habitats, at altitudes between about 100-800m.
The larval foodplant is Tragia (
can be found in two's and three's flying around favoured trees,
usually on hilltops or ridges. They often perch on narrow branches, in
a head downward posture, with their wings half open; or sometimes on
foliage, to await passing females.
frequently intrude into each other's territory, and when this happens
an aerial skirmish takes place, during which both butterflies make a
long series of clearly audible clicking sounds. This is presumably
their way of shouting "go away".
knowledge the only other species which behave in a similar manner are
the Hamadryas Cracker butterflies of
Central and South America. In Hamadryas
sound is produced as the butterflies take off, and is made by twanging
a pair of spiny rods at the tip of the abdomen
against bristles on the valvae ( the male's anal
claspers ). Only males can produce the sound, but both sexes can
- their wings have tiny hollow cells covered in membranes which
vibrate in response to sound and stimulate nerve endings. The purpose
of the sound is not fully understood : it may
deter competing males from occupying the same territory, and may also
act as a trigger to initiate the first response from a female during