Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
BAUMANN & REISSINGER,
Family - PIERIDAE
Dismorphia lygdamis doris,
male, Manu cloudforest, 900m, Peru ©
The subfamily Dismorphiinae, to which the Wood Whites of Europe
belong, has its headquarters in South America, where 51 different
species are found. The neotropical genera include
Moschoneura and Pseudopieris.
The 30 species in the genus
Dismorphia are characterised by having
long narrow almost elliptical fore-wings, and disproportionately
All Dismorphia species are mimics, and
in some cases the males and females mimic different species - e.g.
the male of Dismorphia laja is black
with cream bands and appears to be a mimic of
Heliconius wallacei, while the female is patterned in orange,
yellow and black, and mimics "tiger-complex" Ithomiines. In the case
of Dismorphia theucharila both sexes
are extremely convincing mimics of glasswing Ithomiines, and no
doubt gain a high degree of protection from predators by resembling
these toxic and unpalatable butterflies. It is the Dismorphiine
butterflies which inspired the great 19th century naturalist Henry
Walter Bates to propose his theory of mimicry, now known as Batesian
Dismorphia lygdamis is unusual in that
it appears to be a mimic of Catasticta
sinapina - another Pierid butterfly, albeit in a different
subfamily - Pierinae. Both species are inhabitants of the
cloudforests of the Peruvian Andes.
This species is found in cloudforest and pre-montane habitats at
altitudes between about 600-1500m.
Unknown, however DeVries states that several
Dismorphia species in Costa Rica feed as larvae on
Pithecellobium ( Mimosaceae ). In the case of most species in
the subfamily Dismorphiinae, the eggs are spindle-shaped, and laid
singly on the underside of leaves. In most ( probably all ) species
the larvae are cryptically coloured - dark green above, and paler
are usually found in the vicinity of small waterfalls and rivulets,
where they imbibe mineralised moisture from rocks or road surfaces.
It is not uncommon to find Catasticta
species drinking at the same places.
Both sexes visit flowers
including Eupatorium for nectar.