Butterfies In Amazon Field – Trail Perú
BATTERFLIES IN THE AMAZON TRAIL PERU
Butterflies and moths Among rainforest butterflies and moths, several evolutionary strategies are more or less in play continually (see box below)We do not know precisely the number of species recorded from the lowland Amazon, let alone the true number. Accurate measures may never be possible. Lepidoptera is perhaps the best-known invertebrate group, with about 112,000 species worldwide, of which some 4.000 butterflies have been described from Peru alone among the biggest Amazonian leps are moths, notably the splendid saturnalia.
Moth (Tysania agripina):
with a wingspan up to 30cm in the largest species Occurring throughout much of the Americas and Europe, hawk moths are very large and resemble a hummingbird in form and size, so closely in fact that bates several times shot by mistake a hawk moth instead of a bird’. The biggest hawk moths are sometimes called
As they ‘hum’ due to rapid wing beats while hovering. This behavior allows them to feed on flowers while out on nocturnal forays. Indeed this is the nocturnal equivalent of the hummingbird’s ecological niche, and to attract the moth flowers are usually white and pungent another interesting group of Lepidoptera is the Pierid butterflies, a family in which most species appear to have only four legs compared with the normal six of virtually every insect. In fact the forelegs are held close to the body and only the, two pairs of rear legs are used to stand rainforest savants are familiar with .
Morph Butterflies in Amazon Trail Perú:
distinguished by their large size and wings of iridescent blue, which may be 15-20crn across. But despite being obvious in flight the resting morph is cryptic, showing only the underside of its wings, and almost indistinguishable on the trunk of a tree these magnificent
creatures seem barely able to fly under their own impressive size and weight; their looping flight path appears both laborious and strained. Typical upper Amazon species include Achilles, negro and didoes. These butterflies are highly diverse with over 80 species of morph within the subfamily
Another subfamily (Brassolinae) includes Caligo spp which has superb eye spots – perfect replicas of owl eyes – while the rest of the wings and body complete the deception- mimicking the bird’s ‘ears’ and beak in the Nymphalidae family, along with morphs, is the beautiful Heliconiinae subfamily, along wings, which have a convoluted evolutionary interaction with their passiflora vine host plant. Cyanide compounds produced by pass floras put off most insect herbivores but not the helicoids.
Female longwings lay eggs on the leaves of the vines, which try to prevent this by producing, direct from the leaf tiny protuberances that look like eggs. Fooled into thinking that these are real eggs.the female wrongly decides the plant is already taken. She moves on and the plant has saved itself from an army of hungry caterpillars. But of course, there is strong selection for females who are not easily deceived and, when they can tell the difference, plonk, down go the eggs.
Selection favors the plant that produces a more realistic fake egg, and the butterfly evolves to get better at detecting the fake and we have another evolutionary arms race. Some passion vines produce nectar to attract ants and wasps that attack butterfly eggs and caterpillars. Many helicoids are highly poisonous, ‘a flying cyanide capsule in the words of Diane Murawski (7996), an expert on South American butterflies. Exactly how they acquire the poison is unknown, but it is believed to depend on toxins produced by the host plant, ingested by the caterpillar or butterfly, and sequestered for later use.
Now it gets really interesting. Different species of poisonous helicoids have evolved to mimic each other, sharing similar wing patterns. In the Amazon of southern Colombia and western Brazil, two different species, Heliconius Erato and melpomene, each have a race (or subspecies) that share virtually identical wing patterns. Hence the two races H reductimaeula and vucunus look the same.
Mullerian mimicry was first discovered in the late 19th century by the German naturalist Fritz Muller. One or two tastes of either of these two poisonous species and predators associate the ‘search image’ used to recognize food with poison; subsequently all butterflies which share the pattern will benefit from being off the menu.
Thus, natural selection favors like looking individuals whether or not they’re different species. Trays of mounted insects are sold by hawkers who hang around tour operator offices and airports. Some insects – notably morphs – and large beetles like Cerambycidae and Lucanidae species, especially the ‘Goliath’ goliaths) beetles are at risk or threatened from over-collection, so don’t buy them.