Thailand, Malaysia & Borneo
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - CHARAXINAE
Tribe - CHARAXINI
Ulu Gerok, West Malaysia ©
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 -
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.
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
( 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.
Females are very
rarely seen and probably spend most of their lives high in the
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.