Family: Nymphalidae (Charaxinae) - Leafwing Butterflies
Order: Lepidoptera - Butterflies and Moths
Red List status: Not Evaluated
Range: This species is restricted to Madagascar, where it has been described as "Well-distributed except in the north" (Jenkins, 1987). Its range extends from Tolagnero on the southeast coast to the lowlands of the Masoala Peninsula in the island's northeast, and west to the Southern Mikea north of Tulear.
Adult: A large brown butterfly with leaf-shaped wings, and two prominent 'tails' protruding from the lower edge of each. Pattering of upper and underwings is similar, consisting of shades of brown with cream bands towards the base of the forewing. The forewing upperside is bright yellow at its base. There is a distinctive green border extending from the base of the forewing along the leading edge and to the first vein of the wing. As the common name suggests, the veins closest to the front of each wing are green.
Larva: Charaxes butterflies have distinctive, large caterpillars with robust green bodies and flattened heads decorated with 'horns'. The pictured caterpillar is presumed to be the larval form of Charaxes antamboulou, on the basis of its choice of host plant and close similarities with the related African C. candiope (D. Lees, pers. comm. 2010). The late-stage larva is distinguished by the possession of two pairs of horns surrounding an oval head, a granular texture to the body, a pair of large, pale brown, black-bordered ovals on the upper surface of the sixth body segment. In the pictured specimen, there is one large central oval and a smaller oval on one flank, resulting in an asymmetrical pattern. This might be a developmental abnormality; typical specimens may have a small oval on each side of the central one, as in mainland C. candiope. Unlike the mainland form, the pattern is not repeated on the eighth segment. There is dense white speckling across the dorsum (becoming bright blue at the borders of the ovals). The inner horns are nearly straight and diverge from one another, while the lower pair curve upwards. The underside is grey. A pair of short 'tails' protrude from the final segment; as in other Charaxes larvae these are presumably long in early instars and are reduced as the animal matures.
Similar species: Butterflies in the subfamilies Charaxinae and Nymphalinae appear to have only four legs, as the forelegs are reduced. The leaf-like wing shape with its twin tails is distinctive; swallowtails (Papilionidae) and blues (Lycaenidae) may also have tailed wings, but in these species all six legs are fully-developed. The green veins and forewing border prevent confusion with any species except the rarer C. cowani, with which it occurs in Madagascar's eastern rainforests. C. cowani is distinguished by the dull orange-brown, rather than bright yellow, forewing base when viewed from above. Larvae of other Madagsacan Charaxes (including C. cowani) appear to be unknown, but it is likely that this species' preference for a Croton host plant and dorsal patterning are diagnostic, since both are characteristic of the C. candiope group (represented in Madagascar only by C. antamboulou and C. cowani) (K. Wolfe, pers. comm. 2010).
Habitat: The Madagascar green-veined charaxes prefers forested habitats, and occurs in both the dry forests of southern Madagascar and the island's eastern rainforests.
Larval food plants: Larvae feed on euphorbs of the genus Croton (crotons or rushfoils).
Flight period: Adults in the dry southwest have been recorded in April-May, early in the dry season (P. Bowles, pers. obs.). It may be active at other times of year.
Breeding biology: A late-stage larva was observed in June at Andasibe on the central plateau (P. Bowles, pers. obs.). In the related C. candiope, the larval period is around 20 days.
Butler, A.G. 1896 An account of the butterflies of the genus Charaxes in the collection of the British Museum. Zoological Journal of the Linnaean Society of London 25: 348-404
Jenkins, M.D. 1987 Madagascar: An environmental profile IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre, UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Kidney, D. and Thomas, H. 2005. Butterflies. In: Frontier-Madagascar. 2005. Thomas, H., Kidney, D., Rubio, P. and Fanning, E. (eds.). The Southern Mikea: A Biodiversity Survey.
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Migdoll, I. 1998 Ivor Migdoll's Field Guide to the Butterflies of Southern Africa Struik Publishers, Johannesburg, South Africa
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Savela, M. Croton Lepidoptera and some other life forms
van Someren, V.G.L. and van Someren, R.A.L. 1926 The life-histories of certain nymphalid butterflies of the genera Charaxes, Palla, and Euxanthe. Transactions of the Royal Entomological Society of London 74: 333-354
Williams, M.C. 2005 Afrotropical Butterflies