Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - MORPHINAE
Tribe - MORPHINI
subtribe - MORPHINA
Satipo, Peru ©
There are about 29 described species of Morpho,
possibly more. The status of some subspecies is contended by certain
taxonomists who consider they should be elevated to the rank of full
The dazzling blue wings of
Morpho butterflies are enormous relative to their body size,
resulting in a very distinctive slow, bouncy flight pattern. The
effect is that the brilliant blue upperside appears to flash like a
beacon as it alternates in flight with the dark undersurface. This
makes it difficult for a bird to follow the flight. If attacked when
on the wing, the slow lazy flight pattern instantly changes into a
wild swooping evasive manoeuvre, following which the butterfly dives
into the forest where it instantly settles. A pursuing bird is still
of course searching for a brilliant blue insect, but the
Morpho snaps it's wings shut,
displaying the dark brown underside and foiling the bird's search
program. If the bird does manage to spot the settled butterfly it
invariably aims its attack at the most prominent feature - in this
case the ocelli, missing the body entirely and allowing the
butterfly to escape.
As with many
Morpho species, the female of
marcus lacks the brilliant blue
colouration of the male.
Some taxonomists still refer to
Morpho marcus by its former name Morpho
adonis, which is now regarded as an invalid synonym. The
butterfly is found from Colombia to Guyana, and south across the
Amazonian region to Peru.
This species is found in mid-elevation rainforest at altitudes
between about 300-1000m.
I have no
data specific to marcus. The eggs of
most other Morpho species
are dome-shaped and pale green with a narrow reddish ring
near the top. Most Morphos lay apparently their eggs singly but
several Morpho species have gregarious
larvae, strongly suggesting that their eggs are laid in clusters.
grown larvae are plump, with a large head. Their bodies are
beautifully patterned with fine longitudinal lines of bright red,
yellow and black, and covered with fine brown hairs which are tufted
near the head and tail, and in the middle of the back. Morpho larvae
feed on the leaves of a wide range of trees in the family Fabaceae
Swartzia and Dalbergia.
larvae have eversible glands on the thorax which emit a strong odour
as a defence against predators. The pupae are pale green and
bulbous, and are suspended from a stem or leaf of the foodplant.