the Amazon rainforest
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
Tribe - ANAEINI
Zaretis itys, male, Rio Madre de Dios, Peru
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
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 !
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.
Zaretis comprises of 6 species which are variously distributed from
Mexico to Bolivia, namely itys,
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
This species is found in rainforest and humid deciduous forest habitats at
altitudes between sea level and about 600m.
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 ).
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.