Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - SATYRINAE
Tribe - SATYRINI
La Oroya, 3650m, Peru ©
There are 1100 known species of Satyrinae in the neotropical region.
About 570 of these are placed in the
subtribe Pronophilina - a diverse group of high altitude
butterflies, all of which are confined to the neotropics. The vast
majority are endemic to the eastern Andes, but 4 species are found
in the Atlantic cloudforests of Brazil, and a further 6 species
occur in Central America. Additionally there is one genus
Calisto which is endemic to the
Caribbean islands of Cuba and Hispaniola.
is an unusual species with an underside reminiscent of the Alpine
Graylings of Europe.
The genus Punargentus
comprises of just 2 species, lamna and
angusta. They are closely related to
Argyrophorus. Both genera are
characterised by having large areas of metallic silver scaling on
the uppersides, and cryptically patterned undersides.
occurs in the eastern Andes of southern Peru and Bolivia.
La Oroya, 3650m, Peru ©
This is an Andean species, found at elevations between about
2500-4000m in rocky habitats in the puna / cloudforest transition
zone and on arid high altitude plateaux.
different forms of egg-laying behaviour according to the
micro-habitat and substrate encountered. If a female settles on
stony ground she probes about with her abdomen until she locates a
crevice between small stones, where she deposits a single egg. On
the other hand if she settles on loose dry soil she uses the tip of
her abdomen to drill into the soil, and to repeatedly flick away
loose particles until she has excavated a tiny cavity in which to
place her egg. Often the breeding habitat includes both types of
substrate, and a given female will alternate between each type of
oviposition method. The eggs are whitish and globular.
I have no data
regarding the larva or foodplants, but it is likely that the young
larvae feed on fine young grasses, while the older larvae probably
move on to feed on coarser grasses. Most other Pronophilina feed on
bamboo ( Chusquea
) but that is clearly not the case with
Punargentus and related genera which inhabit arid plateaux.
ovipositing in crevice, La Oroya, 3650m, Peru ©
dorsal fore-wings are silvery and highly reflective, which makes the
butterflies conspicuous in flight, and probably aids mate location.
The conspicuous appearance probably attracts the attention of
predatory dragonflies and insectivorous birds, but
Punargentus elude capture by only
undertaking very short flights, and by taking advantage of their
cryptic underside wing pattern which provides excellent camouflage
once they have settled and closed their wings.
butterflies spend long periods settled motionless on stony ground, but
if disturbed they instantly take flight, flying rapidly and
erratically low over the ground before quickly resettling a few metres
distant. On hot sunny afternoons males sometimes settle at the edge of
streams or seepages to imbibe moisture. Both sexes nectar avidly at
low growing yellow Compositae, and always keep their wings erect while
excavating oviposition site, La Oroya, 3650m, Peru ©
in flight, showing highly reflective silver dorsal forewings ©