Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - CHARAXINAE
Tribe - ANAEINI
Fountainea ryphea ecuadorialis, Satipo, Peru
© Adrian Hoskins
tribe Anaeini comprises of 87 neotropical species in the genera
The butterflies are characterised by having a very rapid and strong
flight. They have stout bodies, falcate wings, and on the upper
surface are generally black, marked with bands of orange, bright
red, or lustrous blue according to species. The undersides of all
species in the Anaeini are cryptically patterned and bear a strong
resemblance to the dead leaves, tree bark or boulders on which they
The genus Fountainea
comprises of 8 species, most of which are widely distributed
throughout the neotropical region. The hindwings of most species
have short tails, in both sexes, although in the males of
sosippus these are vestigial or absent.
In some races of
the males have a beautiful purple sheen across the wings, but this
can only be seen from certain angles.
This species occurs
in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela,
Trinidad, Colombia, Guyana, Surinam, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru and
This species is usually encountered in secondary / disturbed forest
habitats e.g. along wide trails, riverbanks and close to
habitations. It is found in both deciduous and evergreen forests at
altitudes between sea level and about 1000m.
The eggs are
white, and laid singly on the foliage of the foodplants.
grown larva is green, with paler longitudinal lines along the back,
and lightly marbled with reddish brown and white along the sides. It
has a large head that is adorned with a pair of short horns. The
larva lives within a cell made by rolling up a leaf and securing it
with fine silk. It feeds on saplings of Croton
- a tree in the Euphorbiaceae.
chrysalis is suspended by the cremaster from a stem or leaf.
It is pale greenish, with the wing cases edged in pale yellow. The
head and thorax form a barrel shaped section, and the abdominal
segments are highly compressed, forming a short cone.
The butterflies are usually seen
singly, often as the sole Fountainea
species amidst a mixed group of Memphis,
Taygetis species that have aggregated to feed at dung or
rotting fruit on the forest floor. Males also visit sewage seepages
and river beaches to imbibe mineralised water.
The flight and general behaviour
is similar to that of other Charaxine genera. They tend to remain
settled on foliage or on the ground for long periods. If disturbed
they fly up, circle around briefly, and then settle on the foliage of
a nearby tree. After a while, they descend cautiously over a period of
several minutes, in a series of steps, often settling on leaves that
are in dappled sunlight. At such times they often bask with wings half
open. Eventually they return to ground level, and sometimes flit
about, fanning their wings for a few moments, before closing them.
Once settled with wings closed they are confident in the disguise
afforded by their "dead-leaf" undersides, and will remain stationary
for many minutes.