Phalanta phalantha (Drury, 1773)
Leopard
(previously known as Argynnis phalantha)
HELICONIINAE,   NYMPHALIDAE,   PAPILIONOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley


(Photo: courtesy of the Taiwan Forestry Research Institute)

These Caterpillars have several long branched spines protruding from every segment of their body. Initially the caterpillars are colourless. Later they become brown with black dorso-lateral stripes. The final instar is green, with a black, yellow and white head. Overseas, the caterpillars feed on :

  • Quinine Bush ( Petalostigma quadriloculare, EUPHORBIACEAE ),

    but in Australia, they feed on various species from the family SALICACEAE, namely the Australian native :

  • Madagascar Plum ( Flacourtia territorialis = indica ),

    and the introduced ornamentals :

  • Lori-Lori ( Flacourtia inermis ), and
  • Govenor's Plum ( Flacourtia rukam ).


    (Photo: courtesy of the Taiwan Forestry Research Institute)

    The pupa hangs obliquely from a cremaster. It is green with shiny brown projections, and has a length of about 2 cms.


    (Photo: courtesy of the Taiwan Forestry Research Institute)

    The adult butterflies on top are orange, with black scalloped subterminal lines, and a number of black spots of various sizes. Underneath they are similar but paler, and have a large black spot under the tornus of each forewing. They have a wingspan of about 5 cms.

    The eggs are yellow and laid singly on young shoots and stems of a foodplant.


    underside, drawing by Dru Drury, listed as Argynnis phalantha,
    Illustrations of exotic insects, Illustrations of natural history,
    Volume 1 (1837), Plate XXI, fig. 2,
    image courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library, digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.

    This species is found as a number of races from Africa to south-east Asia, including :

  • India,
  • Malaysia,
  • Swaziland,
  • Thailand,
  • Zimbabwe,

    as well as in Australia in

  • the Northern Territory.


    Lesotho
    , 1986

    It has been suggested that the patterns on the wings of this species have evolved to mimic those of the poisonous species in the butterfly genera Taenaris and Hyantis.


    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 2, pp. 470-471.

    Dru Drury,
    in John Obadiah Westwood:
    Figures and Descriptions of Foreign Insects,
    Illustrations of Exotic Entomology,
    Volume 1 (1837), pp. 38-39,, and Plate 21, figs. 1, 2.


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    (updated 14 June 2010, 12 December 2013, 27 January 2014)