Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Family - RIODINIDAE
subfamily - RIODININAE
Tribe - HELICOPINI
Sarota gyas, Satipo, Peru ©
Sarota Jewelmarks are possibly the
cutest butterflies in the world. They have a very rapid and erratic
flight. When seen buzzing about in the early morning they can easily
be mistaken for small flies. Eventually they settle however and
reveal themselves as creatures of exquisite beauty, with bright
orange undersides streaked with metallic silver; and cute little
furry legs !
Sarota was reviewed in 1998 by Jason
Hall, who recognises a total of 20 species, found variously from
Mexico to Bolivia, with the highest concentration in Ecuador. It has
been estimated that certain locations along the base of the eastern
Andes each hold up to 15 species. Most of them are extremely rare
and elusive - so much so that only that even the most experienced
observers rarely manage to see more than half a dozen species in a
Both sexes of all
Sarota species are characterised by
having dull blackish or brownish uppersides which in some species
are marked with suffused whitish spots. The undersides are reddish
orange, marked with metallic silver streaks and lines, small black
spots, and yellow margins. Other Sarota
characteristics include disproportionately long antennae in relation
to wing size, and furry legs.
individual species is fraught with difficulty, as there are only
minor differences in the patterns of several species that often fly
together in the same area. Furthermore there is altitudinal,
geographical and individual variation between adults of any given
species. Sarota gyas can easily be
confused with acantus,
myrtea and miranda, but can be
distinguished from them by comparing the configuration of the silver
/ black markings, the wing shape, and the colour of the forelegs. In
gyas males the forelegs are cream,
whereas in other species they are blackish.
Sarota gyas is distributed from Colombia to Peru and south
west Brazil ( Mato Grosso ).
Most Sarota species found in rainforest
habitats below 1000m, although at least one is found as high as
1700m in the eastern Andes. Sarota gyas
is found at altitudes between 0-800m. Populations are highly
localised - often limited to a tiny corner of a forest.
Females oviposit on mosses and liverworts ( Lejuniaceae ) that grow
as epiphytes on old leaves of various understorey shrubs. The tiny
eggs are white, globular and pitted like a sponge. The larvae when
fully grown are protected by dense coat of whitish setae. If a larva
is molested by an ant the setae break off and become lodged in the
ant's mandibles, preventing attack. Larvae feed solitarily, and rest
underneath leaves. The pupa is formed within a rolled leaf, lined
with loose hairs.
perch in small groups on low vegetation at forest edges or along
streams, and are normally only seen between about 0630 - 0830hrs. They
often rest for long periods, but there are periodic bursts of
activity, typically instigated by the intrusion of a fly or another
Sarota. All such intruders are
aggressively challenged, Often several Sarota
males will become engaged in a frenetic aerial dog-fight, spiralling
upwards and zigzagging low over the ground before returning to their
original perching places. Sometimes males of several
Sarota species will perch in the same
corner of a glade to await passing females.
When at rest,
both sexes normally hold their wings erect, but very slightly apart.
They do however occasionally bask with the wings held half open, if
conditions are warm but slightly overcast.
sometimes nectar at Croton or
Alibertia, and have been recorded
visiting extrafloral nectaries of plants in the families Araceae,
Fabaceae and Tiliaceae.