Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Sylvia Wood Nymph
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - SATYRINAE
Tribe - SATYRINI
subtribe - EUPTYCHIINA
Taygetis sylvia, Manu Biosphere Reserve, Peru ©
There are 1100 known species of Satyrinae in the neotropical region.
About 400 of these are placed in the Euptychiina. Butterflies within
this tribe include the 'ringlet' genera
Magneuptychia, Harjesia etc;
together with Oressinoma and the
various 'wood nymph' genera i.e. Parataygetis,
Taygetis. Most are inhabitants of the forest understorey and
tend to fly close to the ground. They generally avoid sunlight and
prefer to fly at dawn or on cloudy days when light levels and
temperatures are low.
genus Taygetis contains 28 known
species, although several more are likely to be discovered. They
vary in wingspan between about 5-11cms, and are characterised by
having dull brown wings, usually cryptically patterned on the
underside so that they resemble dead leaves. Most species also have
a series of prominent ocelli on the ventral surface.
Taygetis sylvia is less leaf-like than
many of the other species, but the white band across the wings and
jagged outline both very effectively break up the shape of the
butterfly, which is very well camouflaged when at rest amongst dead
leaves on the forest floor.
Taygetis species produce dry season and
wet season forms which differ slightly in appearance. The dry season
forms tend to be paler, with a slightly more exaggerated wing shape.
There is also a great deal of geographical variation in the colour
and contrast of the wing markings, although the ocelli, submarginal
wavy line, and the black spots in the discal cells are consistent in
was first discovered by the famous explorer and naturalist Henry
Walter Bates, who in 1848, together with Alfred Russell Wallace went
on an expedition to the Amazon. There, during the next 10 years,
Bates collected and described 8000 species of animals and plants
that were new to science. He also discovered that many distantly
related butterflies had very similar patterns and colours, which led
him to propose that some species might be toxic to birds, and that
other edible species were mimicking them via a process of evolution.
His theory is now widely accepted, and known as Batesian Mimicry.
Taygetis sylvia is found throughout the
Amazonian faunal region from Panama to Peru and Bolivia.
This species breeds in lowland wet tropical rainforests at altitudes
between about 100-800m.
eggs of Taygetis species are smooth,
globular and laid singly on or close to the foodplants. The
caterpillars are typically Satyrine in appearance, with smooth pale
green bodies marked with thin longitudinal lines, a pair of short
tail prongs and a matching pair of horns projecting forward from the
head capsule. They feed solitarily after dusk, on grasses or bamboos
according to species. The pupae are typically pale green, and have a
bifid head and a curved abdomen.
all other Taygetis species, this
butterfly is a denizen of the dark undergrowth, and flies mainly in
the early mornings, between about 0800-0900hrs. At other times it
usually hides away amongst the rootlets of palms or amongst leaf
litter around the base of trees. The adults fly only very short
distances, rarely more than 2-3 metres at a time, and always close to
the ground. Both sexes visit rotting fruits, decomposing fungi and
bird-droppings on the forest floor.