Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bronx Zoo Butterflies - BOTM Monarchs Danaus plexippus

Yes I know I've mentioned these numerous times but it was almost inevitable that I would do so again. And here is yet another entry on the Monarch.

I believe this to be the most informative one yet due to the fact that I found out some new info that's shocking. Surprisingly I can't believe I've never thought of this before. But there are subspecies of monarchs!

To put it simply: Holy cow! In a sense how could I've been so stupid? How could I not have thought of this? Any who on with the info!

The Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is a milkweed butterfly (subfamily Danainae), in the family Nymphalidae. It is perhaps the best known of all North American butterflies. Since the 19th century, it has been found in New Zealand, and in Australia since 1871 where it is called the Wanderer.

The common name “Monarch” was first published in 1874 by Samuel H. Scudder because “it is one of the largest of our butterflies, and rules a vast domain”.

But the name may be in honour of King William III of England. The Monarch was one of the many species originally described by Linnaeus in his Systema Naturae of 1758. It was first placed in the genus Papilio. In 1780, Jan Krzysztof Kluk used the Monarch as the type species for a new genus; Danaus.

Since Latin grammar requires that the specific epithet and gender names agree it is unclear if the genus Danaus is drawn from Danaus (Greek Δαναός), a mythical king of Egypt and great-grandson of Zeus or is a masculinised version of Danaë (Greek Δανάη), Danaus’s great-great-granddaughter.

The species name, plexippus, refers to Plexippus, one of the 50 sons of Aegyptus, Danaus’ twin brother. In Homeric Greek δαναος πληξιππος also means "a Greek who beats (= lashes, drives and urges on) horses", i.e. "Greek charioteer".

Holy.......oh it get's better ( note this was edited since there's so much on them ). Remember I told you about the white form of the monarch some time ago? Well there's a nice bunch of info on them too. I'm very happy about that.

Why? Well it's my favorite form of the monarch. And I hope to see one someday. Although I think for that to happen I'd have to go to Hawaii. XD

Once again on with the info! These will get a separate entry too.

A color variation has been observed in Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and the United States as early as the late 1800s. Named nivosus by Lepidopterists, it is grayish white in all areas of the wings that are normally orange. Generally it is only about 1% or less of all monarchs, but has maintained populations as high as 10% on Oahu in Hawaii, possibly due to selective predation.

On Oahu, a white morph of the monarch has emerged. This is because of the introduction, in 1965 and 1966, of two bulbul species, Pycnonotus cafer and Pycnonotus jocosus. They are now the most common insectivore birds, and probably the only ones preying on insects as big as the monarch. Monarchs in Hawaii are known to have low cardiac glycoside levels, but the birds may also be tolerant for the chemical.

The two species hunt the larvae and some pupae from the branches and underside of leaves in milkweed bushes. The bulbuls also eat resting and ovipositing adults, but rarely flying ones. Because of its colour the white morph has a higher survival rate than the orange one.

This is either because of apostatic selection (i.e. the birds have learned the orange monarchs can be eaten), because of camouflage (the white morph matches the white pubescence of milkweed or the patches of light shining through foliage), or because the white morph does not fit the bird's search image of a typical monarch, and is thus avoided.

I wonder do the caterpillars look the same with this color variation? It's something to wonder about indeed. And as I've said they'll be getting a separate entry with the info provided above along with anything else I can find.

I'll also rant on these too. I won't do so here because I'm tired for one thing and the other I want to dedicate my rant to the special entry.

I'll probably interrupt this series of mine to post it. XD Rest of the info is here.

Enjoy! I sure did. I learned even more!

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