Saturday, December 10, 2011

Queen Alexandra's Birdwing

Male (top) and Female (bottom)
Meet the largest Butterfly in the entire world- the Queen Alexandra's Birdwing. We learned about a different Birdwing species not too long ago, so you may already be aware that the members of the genus tend to grow really large, and this Butterfly is the largest of them all.

The Wingspan of the Queen Alexandra's Birdwing can grow to as large as a foot, and the females are the larger sex (males grow only to around half the size!). The sexes actually look quite different from one another. Females have broad, rounded, brown and white marked wings. Males have narrower wings that are dark, but are flecked with iridescent blues and greens.

Females of the species will lay around 27 eggs in their lifetime, depositing them on Aristolochia schlechteri  vines. Upon hatching the larvae feed on their own eggshell, and then move on to the plant. The plants produce an acid that causes the Larvae and adult Butterflies to become poisonous to predators. As adults, Queen Alexandra's Birdwings feed on the nectar of plants that are large enough to allow them to perch.

The species named after the wife of England's King Edward VII, who was ruling at the time of discovery back in 1907. They are rare Butterflies, and can only be found in the rainforests of northern Papua New Guinea. Their habitat is being reduced as a result of agricultural pursuits in the Oil Palm industry. Queen Alexandra's Birdwings are listed as Endangered by the IUCN and their international trade is banned by CITES Appendix I. Unfortunately, their large size and rarity allows them to sell for large prices on the black market, which drives further poaching.

IUCN Status : Endangered
Location : New Guinea
Size : Wingspan 12.2in (31cm)
Classification : Phylum : Arthropoda -- Class : Insecta -- Order : Lepidoptera
Family : Papilionidae -- Genus : Ornithoptera -- Species : O. alexandrae

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