Home

 

 
Butterflies of the Amazon rainforest
 
Variable Leafwing
Zaretis itys  CRAMER, 1777
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - CHARAXINAE
Tribe - ANAEINI
 
 introduction | habitats | lifecycle | adult behaviour
 

Zaretis itys, male, Rio Madre de Dios, Peru
 
Introduction
 
There are 88 species in the tribe Anaeini, all of which are confined to the neotropical region. All have cryptic "dead-leaf" patterns on the underside and a leaf-like profile, with a falcate apex on the forewing and a short tail on the hindwing.
 
The genera Coenophlebia and Zaretis are among the most convincing dead leaf mimics in the insect world, coloured like dead dry leaves, complete with a fake "midrib" and "leaf-mould" mottling. Some species such as Coenophlebia archidona, and the dry season forms of Zaretis itys take things even further, having translucent blotches that bear a remarkable resemblance to the nibbled tissue of leaves that have been attacked by leaf beetles or young caterpillars !
 
Zaretis itys is almost as variable in colour and pattern as the leaves which it simulates. The ground colour varies from earthy brown to pale umber or dull orange. The dark mottling can be very heavy in some examples or almost absent in others. The hyaline ( translucent ) areas can take the form of large blotches, or may be reduced to just one or two small spots. In a few examples such as the specimen illustrated above they can be absent.
 
The genus Zaretis comprises of 6 species which are variously distributed from Mexico to Bolivia, namely itys, ellops, callidryas, isidora, syene and an as yet unnamed species discovered by Willmott & Hall. The commonest and most widespread species is itys, which is distributed from Mexico to southern Peru.
 
Habitats
 
This species is found in rainforest and humid deciduous forest habitats at altitudes between sea level and about 600m.
 
Lifecycle
 
The fully grown caterpillar is dark brown, with a series of dark markings along the back. There is a prominent raised flap-like hump behind the thorax, and the head bears a pair of stout horns. The foodplant is Casearia ( Flacourtiaceae ).
 
Adult behaviour

 

Both sexes feed at rotting fruits in the canopy, but males can sometimes be encountered at midday, imbibing moisture from damp sunlit sandbanks or along wide forest trails. If disturbed, or if clouds temporarily obscure the sun, they fly up into trees and settle under leaves or small branches.

 

 

About me

Contact me

Butterfly study holidays

Trip reports

Butterfly diary - latest sightings

Frequently asked questions

Test your knowledge

Strange but true !

Where to find butterflies

Taxonomy & Evolution

Anatomy

Lifecycle

Enemies of butterflies

Ecology

Survival strategies

Migration / dispersal

Habitats - UK

Habitats - Tropical rainforests

Butterfly world census

Books

Butterfly photography

Butterflies of the British Isles

Butterflies of Europe

Butterflies of Amazon & Andes

Butterflies of North America

Butterflies of Africa

Butterflies of India & Nepal

Butterflies of Malaysia

Butterflies of Papua New Guinea

Butterflies of Australia

Butterflies of New Zealand

Moths - marvels of nature

Moths - Britain & Europe

Moths - Amazon & Andes

Caterpillars - the infinite variety

Insects of Amazonia

Species index

Subject index

Glossary

Links

Code of practice

Copyright - text & images

Feedback

Website status

 

All photographs, artwork, text & website design are the property of Adrian Hoskins ( unless otherwise stated ) and are protected by Copyright. Photographs or text on this website must not be reproduced in part or in whole or published elsewhere without prior written consent of Adrian Hoskins / learnaboutbutterflies.com

Site hosted by Just Host

ICC Appliance - Powered by ICC Systems