Atrophaneura polydorus (Linnaeus, 1763)
Red-Bodied Swallowtail
(previously known as Pachliopta polydorus)
PAPILIONIDAE ,   PAPILIONOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com )
and
Stella Crossley

Atrophaneura polydorus
(Photo: courtesy of Wes Jenkinson)

This species was probably named after one of the famous ancient Greeks named Polydorus.

The Caterpillar of this species is a mottled brown colour, with rows of red and yellow fleshy tubercles. It feeds on vines from the family ARISTOLOCHIACEAE, including :

  • Chalmer's Birthwort ( Aristolochia chalmersii ),
  • Indian Birthwort ( Aristolochia indica ),
  • Birthwort ( Aristolochia tagala ),
  • Australian Native Dutchman's Pipe ( Aristolochia thozetii ),
  • Cairns Birdwing Butterfly Vine ( Pararistolochia australopithecurus ),
  • Mountain Aristolochia ( Pararistolochia deltantha ),
  • Heathlands Aristolochia ( Pararistolochia linearifolia ), and
  • Cape York Birthwort ( Pararistolochia peninsulensis ).

    Atrophaneura polydorus
    egg, magnified
    (Photo: courtesy of Wes Jenkinson)

    The eggs are laid on a leaf of a foodplant, and also sadly on the introduced

  • Dutchman's Pipe ( Aristolochia elegans ),

    Caterpillars feeding on the leaves of this plant die, because it is poisonous to them, as it is to caterpillars of Troides richmondia and Cressida cressida.

    Atrophaneura polydorus
    caterpillar about to pupate
    (Photo: courtesy of Wes Jenkinson)

    It is now an important project in the conservation of these Australian butterfly species to try to eliminate occurrences of

  • Dutchman's Pipe ( Aristolochia elegans ), in the bush along the east coast of Australia, and to encourage people to grow in their gardens :
  • Richmond Birdwing Vine ( Pararistolochia praevenosa ).
    Atrophaneura polydorus
    pupa
    (Specimen: courtesy of Tony Craft, Coffs Harbour Butterfly House)

    The pupa is white mottled with brown. It has a concave back, and a row of flanges along each side. The pupa has a length of about 3 cms.

    Atrophaneura polydorus
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The wings of the adults are black with white patches, and have a span of about 9 cms. The hind wings have some red spots near the margin. These spots appear to mimic other Australian Swallowtails.

    Atrophaneura polydorus
    underside
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The underside is similar, except that the underside of the abdomen is scarlet.

    The species occurs as several subspecies over the south-west Pacific, including

  • New Ireland, and
  • New Guinea.

    The subspecies queenslandicus (Rothschild, 1895) occurs in Australia in

  • Queensland along the north-east coast.


    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 1, pp. 279-280.


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    (updated 30 January 2010)