Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - CHARAXINAE
Tribe - ANAEINI
Memphis laura caucana, Tatama NP, Colombia ©
The tribe Anaeini comprises of 87 neotropical species in the genera
Zaretis. 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 settle.
The genus Memphis includes 60 species,
all restricted to the neotropical region. The forewings of all
species have a falcate apex, and a concave dorsum. In many species
the tornus of the forewing is very acute.
The male of Memphis laura is black on
the upperside, with metallic blue scaling over the basal half of the
wings, and broad suffused orange-brown borders. The female is
metallic blue with a broad white diagonal band across the forewing,
and a black apex. The undersides of both sexes are very similar but
the female has tailed hindwings.
Memphis laura is distributed from Costa
Rica to Colombia. There are 4 subspecies.
Memphis laura caucana is endemic to Colombia.
Memphis laura occurs in rainforest and
cloudforest at elevations between about 200-1800m.
I have no data relating specifically to laura,
but the following account describes the lifecycle of a typical
Memphis species :
The eggs are smooth and globular. They are laid singly on leaves of
the foodplants, which according to species include Piperaceae,
Euphorbiaceae, Lauraceae, Monimaceae and Annonaceae.
The caterpillars are cylindrical, tapering towards the bifid tail,
and covered with tiny granulations or very short bristles. They are
typically green or brown, marked with a series of fine longitudinal
lines. The head is large, and bears a crown of short pointed
tubercles. When small, the caterpillars make frass-chains ( chains
of dried droppings ) on the tips of leaves. When older they live
within leaf tubes made from rolled up leaves bound together with
silk, and only emerge when feeding.
The chrysalis of all species is stocky and barrel-shaped, with a
very large thoracic section, and highly compressed abdominal
segments. It is typically green or brownish, lightly marbled, and is
suspended by the cremaster from a leaf or stem.
Like other Memphis species this butterfly
spends most of its life in the upper canopy. It is however strongly
attracted to rotting fruit, mammalian dung or carrion on the forest
The wings are always kept tightly closed when the butterflies are
feeding. If disturbed they fly up onto nearby understorey foliage.
They typically spend several minutes there and often open their wings
fully to bask in the dappled sunlight.