Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - DANAINAE
Tribe - ITHOMIINI
© Tony Hoare
The Ithomiini comprises of 376 known species,
although it is likely that at least another 30 will be discovered in
the near future. All are confined to the neotropical region.
are unpalatable to birds, and are consequently mimicked in
appearance by many other species. These include other unpalatable
species ( Müllerian mimics ), not only from the Ithomiinae but also
from several other butterfly families. There are also a large number
of edible species ( Batesian mimics ) which have evolved similar
patterns. Birds have the ability to memorise butterfly patterns and
so learn to avoid eating noxious species, but are also fooled into
ignoring similarly marked edible species.
characterised by having small eyes, slender abdomens and long
drooping antennae that lack distinct clubs. Males have a plume of
long androconial scales or "hair pencils" on the costa of their
hindwings. These are hidden from view when the butterflies are at
rest, but are displayed when the wings are held open during
courtship. Other Ithomiine characteristics include a very slow and
deep wing beat, and a preference for inhabiting the darkest recesses
of the forest understorey.
are basically 2 types of Ithomiine. The first type are the black and
orange-banded "tigers", many of which are mimicked by other species
due to their unpalatability to birds. The second type are the
"glasswings", recognised by their translucent wings and prominent
venation. Many genera contain examples of both types, and in some
cases an individual species may produce adults of both forms
according to location.
The genus Hyalyris
comprises of 13 species, which can be recognised by their
distinctive venation, and by the broad black margins with which are
prominent white submarginal spots. Some species have simple patterns
like that of latilimbata,
antea and mestra;
but others including excelsa,
and oulita have conspicuous orange
patches on the hindwings.
endemic to Peru.
This species is found in mid elevation cloudforest on the eastern
Andes, at altitudes between about 500-1800m. It can be found flying
along shady forest trails, or in full sunshine along forest edges.
To be completed.
Hyalyris latilimbata is usually seen
singly on forest trails, feeding at bird droppings or at the flowers
Eupatorium. It sequesters pyrrolizidine alkaloids from these
sources, which confer toxic qualities to the butterfly, thus which
deterring bird attacks. The chemicals are also used in the production
of pheromones used to entice females into copulation.