Butterflies of Thailand, Malaysia & Borneo
Common Nawab
Polyura athamas  DRURY, 1773
subfamily - CHARAXINAE
Polyura athamas, Ulu Gerok, West Malaysia  Adrian Hoskins
There are 24 species in the genus Polyura, most of which are found in the Oriental region, although one species posidonius is restricted to Tibet and west China; 6 or 7 are endemic to various islands, e.g. andrewsi from Christmas Island and caphontis from Fiji; and one, pyrrhus reaches Queensland in Australia.
The butterflies are characterised by their distinctive wing shape with twin tails on the hindwings, a feature strongly reminiscent of the African Charaxes. Most have dark brown uppersides with bands of dazzling creamy white which vary in size and shape from one species to another. These bands are repeated on the underside, usually in a beautiful shade of pale green. In a few species such as delphis the underside is almost entirely white.
There are 7 species occuring in Malaysia - athamas, delphis, eudamippus, hebe, jalysus, moori and schreiber. Polyura athamas is the most frequently encountered member of this group, and as well as in Malaysia it occurs in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Tibet, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Laos, Taiwan, Brunei, Kalimantan, the Philippines, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Java, Lombok and Timor.
This species is found in forested areas at elevations between sea level and about 400 metres.
The egg is spherical, shiny and yellow. It is laid on the underside of leaves of the foodplants.
The caterpillar when fully grown is dark green with 3 prominent white diagonal stripes, and several thinner stripes, all of which converge on the back to form a series of V shapes. It has a large head with a flat face, adorned with a crown of 4 impressive long horns. It feeds nocturnally on the foliage of various trees and shrubs including Albizia, Acacia, Abarema, Adenanthera, Delonix, Peltophorum and Leucaena ( Fabaceae ), Grewia ( Malvaceae ), and Caesalpinia ( Caesalpinaceae ).
The chrysalis is green, streaked with white on the abdomen and wing cases, and has a plump, rounded and compressed abdomen. It is attached by a stout pedunculate cremaster to a twig or stem on or near the foodplant.
Adult behaviour
Females are very rarely seen and probably spend most of their lives high in the forest canopy.
Males are common and often seen imbibing mineralised moisture from damp sand, gravel, or road surfaces. It is not uncommon to see 2 or 3 males of athamas or other Polyura species aggregating on the ground, feeding avidly at dung. When feeding they are almost oblivious of humans, but if deliberately disturbed they fly up to settle on tree foliage nearby, and return as soon as they sense danger has passed. The flight is very rapid and powerful.


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