Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Family - LYCAENIDAE
subfamily - THECLINAE
Tribe - EUMAEINI
Laothus gibberosa, female, Tingo Maria, Peru
© Peter Maddison
Almost all neotropical Theclinae species are placed in the Eumaeini.
The tribe is not particularly well represented in collections, so
until fairly recently a high percentage remained unstudied, and were
inappropriately filed away in the 'convenience' genus
Thecla. Many taxonomists have attempted
to rationalise the systematics of the Eumaeini, the most recent
being Robbins who published a revision in 2004, reclassifying the
taxa into 83 genera. Currently there are 1058 known species. Taking
into account their small size, secretive behaviour, and the great
similarities between many species, it is estimated that about
another 200 species probably remain to be discovered.
are 8 species in the genus Laothus,
found variously from Mexico to Brazil and Peru. All have a
zebra-striped pattern on the underside. In half of these species the
ground colour is brown, and the stripes are narrow and white. In
the white bands are very broad, giving the impression of a white
ground colour with dark brown or blackish stripes.
The strong pattern serves to divert the eyes of predators away from
the butterfly's head and body, and towards the 'false antennae'
'back to front' illusion that deceives lizards and birds, tricking
them into aiming their attack the wrong part of the butterfly. The
predators typically try to increase their chances of a direct hit by
aiming their attack just ahead of where they expect the butterfly to
fly, but are fooled into aiming behind, instead of in front of the
target. The result is that the butterfly is able to make its escape
in the opposite direction.
The costa of the
forewings of gibberosa females is
strongly bowed but in males is far more extreme, forming an
extraordinary protuberance or 'hump'. The purpose of this appears to
be unknown, and would make a fascinating subject for research.
Laothus gibberosa is found in Colombia,
Ecuador and Peru.
This species is found in rainforest and cloudforest at altitudes
between about 400-1800m on both sides of the Andes.
This species is invariably
encountered singly, perching or resting on foliage at light gaps or in
small glades in the forest. Females in my experience are more
frequently encountered than males.