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Butterflies of the Amazon rainforest
 
Cyan Leafwing
Memphis praxias  HOPFFER, 1874
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - CHARAXINAE
Tribe - ANAEINI
 
 introduction | habitats | lifecycle | adult behaviour
 

Memphis praxias praxias, Manu Biosphere Reserve, Peru
 
Introduction
 
The tribe Anaeini comprises of 87 neotropical species in the genera Coenophlebia, Consul, Anaea, Polygrapha, Memphis, Siderone, Fountainea and Zaretis. The butterflies are characterised by having a very rapid and strong flight. They have stout bodies, falcate wings, and on the upper surface are generally black, marked with bands of orange, bright red, or lustrous blue according to species. The undersides of all species in the Anaeini are cryptically patterned in mottled brown tones, and bear a very strong resemblance to dead leaves.
 
The genus Memphis includes 60 species, all restricted to the neotropical region. The forewings of all species have a falcate apex, and a concave dorsum. In many species the tornus of the forewing is very strongly hooked.
 
Males of all Memphis species are black, with extensive metallic blue or turquoise scaling over the basal half of the wings, and usually with additional blue spots or bands in the subapical area. Females are generally very similar, but usually a different shade of blue-green than their male counterparts, and often have short tails on the hindwings. Some males also have short tails, but the majority of species have un-tailed males. A few species have additional orange or red markings - e.g. the male of Memphis anna has a red patch in the subapical area, and the females of anna and philumena have orange subapical bands on the forewings.
 
Memphis praxias is a scarce species found in eastern Ecuador and Peru.
 
Habitats
 
This is a lowland rainforest species found at elevations between about 200-800m in the foothills of the Andes.
 
Lifecycle
 
I can find no data relating specifically to Memphis praxias, but the following account describes the lifecycle of a typical Memphis species :
 
The eggs are smooth, globular, and laid singly on leaves of the foodplants, which according to species include Piperaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Lauraceae, Monimaceae and Annonaceae.
 
The caterpillars are cylindrical, tapering towards the bifid tail, and covered with tiny granulations or very short bristles. They are typically green or brown, marked with a series of fine longitudinal lines. The head is large, and bears a crown of short pointed tubercles. When small, the caterpillars make frass-chains ( chains of dried droppings ) on the tips of leaves. When older they live within leaf tubes made from rolled up leaves bound together with silk, and only emerge when feeding.
 
The chrysalis of all species is stocky and barrel-shaped, with a very large thoracic section, and highly compressed abdominal segments. It is typically green or brownish, lightly marbled, and is suspended by the cremaster from a leaf or stem.
 
Adult behaviour

 

Like all Memphis species this butterfly is strongly attracted to rotting fruit lying on the forest floor. Often several Memphis of various species will gather to feed at a favoured spot, jostling for position, deeply probing into the fruit with their proboscises. They also feed at dung, and occasionally at carrion.

 

The wings are normally kept tightly closed when feeding, but if disturbed the butterflies will usually fly up to settle on nearby foliage at a height of about 2 or 3 metres. At these times the wings are held shut or partially open. After a short period, when they feel it is safe to return to the feeding spot, they descend to settle momentarily on low foliage, and eventually on the forest floor, at which time, if the sunlight is dappled or weak, they will briefly open their wings to display the glorious uppersides.

 

 

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