Papilionidae is the smallest butterfly family in the world that possesses only 701 species which represent just 4% of butterfly diversity throughout the world. Butterflies belonging to this family exhibit high degree of endemism in comparison with the members of other families. Accordingly, it is reported that out of nineteen species, five are entirely endemic to Peninsular India as well as 3 species shared endemics of Peninsular India and Sri Lanka1.
Unfortunately, unscientific developmental activities of human beings are influencing the habitats of several species of butterflies. As a result of which, survival of numerous species of butterflies is in danger. Therefore, enhancing the population of larval hosts, rearing the butterfly artificially and then releasing them into the wild can assist restocking their endangered populations and also serve as a conservation measure of these species.
However, this plan needs authentic and complete information about life history, larval performance regarding food consumption as well as growth, adult nectar resources and other habitat conditions in order to implement this strategy successfully2.
Considering this information, scientists decided to conduct a new research to investigate the biology of three Western Ghats endemic Swallowtails butterflies including Papilio dravidarum, Atrophaneura pandiyana as well as Atrophaneura hector at Peechi3.
For this purpose, research team recorded the size of the caterpillar viz length and breadth, pupation, mode of feeding as well as emergence time. The biology took 36-40 days for completion in Malabar Rave (P. dravidarum) and 35 to 37 days in A. pandiyana and A. hector3.
This study displayed that survival of butterflies in the wild is dependent upon the accessibility of foraging area, freedom from natural enemies as well as availability of conducive environment for courtship. Moreover, study regarding the life history of these 3 species exhibited that these butterflies need duration of 35-40 days for accomplishment of their life cycle. In addition, due to short life cycle of butterflies, they are suitable for the topics like genetics, insect-plant interactions as well as co-evolution.
Conclusively, complete knowledge regarding the biology and ecology of butterflies is necessary for development of suitable conservation strategies. The biology of a variety of species varies in different eco-climatic zones; therefore, location wise data should be generated. Moreover, this study showed that information about the life history as well as their behavioral patterns of immature stages can assist to identify geographical and ecological races.
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