Monday, September 6, 2010


Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 106(2), May-Aug 2009 142-148



Descriptions of hitherto unknown early stages of the Travancore Evening Brown Parantirrhoea marshalli Wood-Mason, a rare and endemic butterfly from the southern Western Ghats are presented. Ochlandra travancorica Benth.,Family Poaceae, a gregarious reed seen near water in deciduous and mixed forests, is reported as its larval host plantfor the first time. Even though the caterpillars of this species were found to be common in suitable habitats, the adultswere rarely sighted in its range.

Key words: early stages, endemic species, Travancore Evening Brown, Parantirrhoea marshalli, Satyrinae,Nymphalidae, Lepidoptera, Western Ghats

Travancore Evening Brown Parantirrhoea marshalli was first described in 1880 by J. Wood-Mason in The Journal of Asiatic Society, Bengal. Marshall and de Niceville (1883) stated, “P. marshalli has yet only been found in Travancore, where it was discovered by Mr. H.S. Ferguson on the Ashamboo hills in May.” More than 100 years have passed with only a handful of sightings of this elusive butterfly. Parantirrhoea marshalli is endemic to the southern Western Ghats of peninsular India and is known to occur from Coorg to the As
hambu hills. This species could be described as an entomologic curiosity because it’s nearest related genus Antirrhoea is found flying only in the South American jungles.Both these genera are remarkable for the peculiar arrangement of hindermost veins of the anterior wings. Here, the first median veinlet runs back to the inner angle and the submedianvein ends a considerable distance short of that angle. The species had not been reported since its last sighting by Fraser in 1930 till Elamon (1993) rediscovered a population of P. marshalli in the environs of the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala.
Recently, Kunhikrishnan (2002) reported sightings of this butterfly in the southern region of the Western Ghats. Although both sexes of this butterfly have been photographed, not much information is available on the early stages of this butterfly.
A number of authors have written about the perfect form of this species; but the only mention of its suspected hostplant and early stages are in Fraser (1930), Yates (1931),and Wynter-Blyth (1957), Gaonkar (1996). Fraser (1930)mentioned that the larva of P. marshalli feeds on ‘cane’. Yates(1930) enquired, through the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, if what Fraser (1930) meant by ‘cane’ was Ochlandra rheedii Benth. & Hook.f. ex Gamble, and asked him to describe the larva if he had found it.Wynter-Blyth (1957) quoted Yates in his work BUTTERFLIES OF THE INDIAN REGION and suspected that the food plant was Ochlandra rheedii (Syn: Ochlandra scriptoriaDennst.),
as it was always in its clumps that Yates had found it. Gaonkar (1996) stated that the bamboo Ochlandra scriptoria Dennst. could be a probable larval host plant for P. marshalli and the species was invariably found wherever this plant was available. Information on the early stages of many endemic butterflies of the Western Ghats are still unknown. Some of the recent discoveries are of the larval stages of Golden Flitter Quedara basiflava (de Nicéville 1888) by Kunte (in press)and the Sitala Ace Thoressa sitala (de Nicéville 1885) by Kalesh and Prakash (under prep.). Observations made in this study have thrown light on the hitherto unknown early stages of the Travancore Evening Brown Parantirrhoea marshalli Wood-Mason and have confirmed its larval host plant for the first time.
It may be recalled here that Evans (1932) has described the status of P. marshalli as rare. In this study it was found that the caterpillars were common during January to July, although the adult butterfly is rarely seen. They are usually seen during cloudy evenings flying amid reed clumps.

It was during overcast evenings that adults were seen flying inside reed clumps. At Kallar we could observe only one or two adults after traversing about 5 km. Kunhikrishnan (pers.comm.) reported observing more than 20 adults in a walk of less than 4 km through a considerably large reed plot at Edamalayar-Pooyenkutty valley, along the south-west flanks of the Anamalais in July 2003.
We observed that this species is common wherever its larval host plants are available. Adults have been reported to be rare due to their peculiar habits or itcould even be due to considerable larval or pupal mortality under natural conditions.

We are thankful to Krushnamegh Kunte and E. Kunhikrishnan for their comments on the drafts, andProf. Ravi M. (Retired Professor of Botany, S.N. College,Kollam) for identifying the plant. We are grateful to Rohit who was a constant companion in our search for larvae. We express special thanks to Suresh Elamon, who provided us with most of the older references on the species. We thank Mrs. J. Jaya Ashok for editing our manuscript. We are also thankful to Varun, Suraj P. Haridas, N.R.K. Anish, Jyothy Vijayan, S. Greeshma, and our parents for theirencouragement.

BELL, T.R. (1909): The common butterflies of the plains of India(including those met with in the
hill stations of the Bombay Presidency). J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 19: 16-58.
ELAMON, S. (1993): Butterflies of Periyar Tiger Reserve. Project Report
submitted to Kerala Forest Department. 50 pp.
EVANS, W.H. (1932): Identifications of Indian Butterflies. 2nd edition, Bombay Natural
History Society, Bombay. x + 454 pp., 32 pl.
FERGUSON, H.S. (1891): A list of the Butterflies of Travancore. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 6: 432-448.
FRASER, F.C. (1930): A note on some Malabar Lepidoptera. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 34: 260-261.
GAONKAR, H. (1996): Butterflies of the Western Ghats, India including Sri Lanka,
A Biodiversity Assessment of a Threatened Mountain System. Report to the
Centre for Ecological Sciences, IndianInstitute of Science, Bangalore. 51 pp.
KALESH, S. & S.K. PRAKASH (2007): Additions to larval host plants of butterflies of the Western Ghats, Kerala, southern India (Rhopalocera, Lepidoptera): Part 1. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc.
104(2): 235-237.
KUNHIKRISHNAN, E. (2002): Diversity of Butterflies in the Neyyar and Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary Kerala. A report submitted to Kerala Forest Department. 37 pp.
KUNTE, K. (2000): Butterflies of Peninsular India. Universities Press (Hyderabad)
and Indian Academy of Sciences (Bangalore).254 pp.
KUNTE, K. (2006): Additions to known larval host plants of Indian butterflies.
J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 103(1): 119-122.
KUNTE, K. (2008): Natural history and early stages of the Golden Flitter Quedara basiflava 
 (Hesperiidae, Lepidoptera) from the Western Ghats, southern India.
J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 105(1):104-108.
MARSHALL, G.F.L. & L. DE NICÉVILLE (1883): The Butterflies of India,
Burmah and Ceylon. Vol 1: 261-262. The Calcutta Central Press Co., Calcutta.
SEETHALAKSHMI, K.K. & M.S. MUKTESH KUMAR (1998): Bamboos of India,
a compendium. Kerala Forest Research Institute and Network for Bamboo and Rattans. 342 pp.
WOOD-MASON, J. (1880): Description of Parantirrhoea marshalli, the
Type of new Genus and Species of  Rhophalocerous: Lepidoptera from South India.
J. Asiat. Soc. Beng. 49(4): 248-250.
WYNTER-BLYTH, M.A. (1957): Butterflies of the Indian Region.
Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai. xx + 523 pp., 72 pl.
YATES, J.A. (1931): The Butterflies of Coorg. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc.34: 1003-1014.

Published in Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 106(2), May-Aug 2009 142-148

No comments:

Post a Comment