Butterflies of the
Family - LYCAENIDAE
subfamily - THECLINAE
Tribe - APHNAEINI
Spindasis lohita, Chilapata, West Bengal, India ©
The genus Spindasis is regarded by some
authors as a subgenus of Cigaritis.
Thus defined there are well over 70 species, found variously across
Africa, the Middle East and the Oriental region. The 'true'
Spindasis species, i.e. those occuring
in the Oriental region, amount to about 25-30 species. The
classification of some taxa is disputed so the exact number of
species in India is uncertain. D'Abrera lists 14 species as occuring
on the Indian subcontinent - syama,
and ictis but it is likely that some of
these are only worthy of subspecies status.
genus is instantly recognisable from the distinctive pattern of
red-bordered silvery stripes on the underside. The pattern functions
to divert the eyes of predators away from the butterfly's head, and
towards the tornus. The bright orange tornal spot, and the
white-tipped 'false antennae' tails, which are wiggled while the
butterfly rests, add further to the back-to-front illusion. A bird
or reptile intending to attack a butterfly will always try to
anticipate the direction in which it will try to escape. Accordingly
they aim their attack just ahead of what they believe to be the head
of the insect, but the back-to front illusion fools them into aiming
at the tail, and the butterfly is able to escape in the opposite
a common and widely
distributed species. It is found in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan,
Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Sumatra
butterfly is found in rainforest, humid deciduous forest and forest
edge habitats at elevations between sea leval and about 700m.
The caterpillar is green, mottled with paler markings. It feeds on
the foliage of the shrubs Psidium
( Myrtaceae ), Dioscorea (
Dioscoreaceae ), Argyreia (
Convolvulaceae ), Xylia ( Mimosaceae )
and Terminalia ( Combretaceae ). It is
attended by ants, which 'milk' it to obtain sugary secretions. It
lives, and eventually pupates, within a shelter constructed from
fragments of bark or stem.
sexes are usually encountered singly or occasionally in two's and
three's, and are typically seen when resting on the foliage of trees
or shrubs at a height of about 2-3m above the ground. They have a
rapid fluttery flight which is difficult to follow with the eye.
Males sometimes visit
sandbanks, where they perch on rocks or stones. Upon landing they
wiggle the 'false antennae' tails for a few moments, but once they
have assessed that they are in no immediate danger from predators,
they stop this activity and remain perfectly still.