Butterflies of Africa
Family - LYCAENIDAE
subfamily - LIPTENINAE
Tribe - LIPTENINI
Likpe Hills, Ghana / Togo border
© Adrian Hoskins
The subfamily Lipteninae is wholly African in
distribution. It comprises of 600 species varying from the tiny
Tetrarhanis symplocus to the dazzlingly
bright metallic blue Epitola posthumus
- a species which with a wingspan of 65mm is massive by Lycaenidae
There are about 17
known species of Tetrarhanis, although
it is likely that at least another 3 or 4 remain to be discovered.
The upper surface of the wings of all
Tetrarhanis species is plain blackish-brown. When seen in
flight the alternating upper and underside colours give the
impression of a flashing beacon - hence the popular name "On-Offs".
Tetrarhanis symplocus is distributed
from Liberia to western Nigeria. It is considered by some to be
merely a subspecies of T. simplex,
which is virtually identical in appearance, and is found from
eastern Nigeria to Congo. There appears to be no overlap in the
ranges of simplex and
symplocus, so it is possible that the
range of the ancestral simplex was
split into 2 halves as a result of climatic influences, causing the
2 taxa to evolve in isolation.
This species, and simplex, are both found in tropical rainforest
habitats, and both are tolerant to a degree of habitat degradation,
so can be found in secondary forest and along logging roads.
The eggs are laid on dry twigs on the forest floor. The larvae are
thought to feed on algae coating the surface of the twigs.
common species is often encountered in groups of 3 or 4 at dusk and
dawn, when they can be found at rest hanging from tendrils or from the
ends of dry twigs.
Bunso, Ghana ©