Orsis bluewing butterfly (Myscelia orsis)

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Male Orsis bluewing butterfly

Top facts

  • The Orsis bluewing butterfly is named for the vivid blue upperwings of the adult male.
  • Instead of blue wings, the female Orsis bluewing butterfly has brown wings marked with white spots.
  • The caterpillar of the Orsis bluewing butterfly has two very long, spined horns on its head.
  • The Orsis bluewing butterfly occurs in the Atlantic forest of South America, where it appears to be abundant in forest fragments.
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Orsis bluewing butterfly fact file

Orsis bluewing butterfly description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumArthropoda
ClassInsecta
OrderLepidoptera
FamilyNymphalidae
GenusMyscelia (1)

The Orsis bluewing butterfly (Myscelia orsis) is a brightly coloured Neotropical butterfly named for the vibrant blue colour of the male’s wings. Although mainly blue above, the male Orsis bluewing butterfly also has black margins to its upperwings, and a reddish-brown patch on the outer edge of the forewings. The forewings are also marked with lighter blue patches, and the tips of the forewings are quite square in shape (3).

The male and female Orsis bluewing butterfly differ in appearance, to the extent that they appear to belong to two separate species. The female Orsis bluewing butterfly has more scalloped wing margins than the male, and has brown rather than blue upperwings, which are patterned with white spots and blotches. However, like the male, the female has a reddish-brown patch at the edge of the forewing (3).

In both the male and female Orsis bluewing butterfly, the undersides of the wings are a dull brown to grey, but the female’s underside has more white patches and stripes than in the male. This species’ pattern of stripes and spots is likely to break up its outline and provide it with camouflage in its forest habitat (3).

The caterpillar of the Orsis bluewing butterfly is reported to be covered in branching spines, and has two very long, spined horns on its head, which are directed forwards when the caterpillar is at rest (4).

Size
Male forewing length: c. 2.5 cm (2)
Female forewing length: c. 2.7 cm (2)
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Orsis bluewing butterfly biology

The adult Orsis bluewing butterfly is mainly frugivorous, feeding on fermented fruits, although it may also occasionally feed on mammal excrement, plant sap or even animal carcasses (10). The host plants which the Orsis bluewing caterpillars feed on belong to the genus Dalechampia in the Euphorbiaceae family (4) (8). This group of plants easily colonises forest edges and disturbed areas (7) (8), which may help to explain why the Orsis bluewing butterfly is so abundant in fragmented areas.

In flight, the Orsis bluewing butterfly is reported to flap its wings in quite a leisurely manner, and to fly quite low over the bushes. Once it has landed on a leaf or branch, it can become surprisingly difficult to see (3).

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Orsis bluewing butterfly range

The Orsis bluewing butterfly has been found throughout the Atlantic forest in South America, with the main records of the species coming from southern Brazil (5) (6) (7) (8) and northeast Argentina (9).

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Orsis bluewing butterfly habitat

The genus Myscelia seems to prefer lowland forest and scrub areas (10), usually flying within dense, humid tropical or subtropical forests (3). Within the Atlantic forest ecosystem, the Orsis bluewing butterfly has been found to be abundant in fragmented forest areas (5) (7) (8), favouring forest edges and clearings (7).

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Orsis bluewing butterfly status

The Orsis bluewing butterfly has yet to be classified by the IUCN.

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Orsis bluewing butterfly threats

Although the Atlantic forest is now becoming highly fragmented inside a mosaic of croplands, ranching areas, plantations and urban settlement (7), the Orsis bluewing butterfly has been shown to thrive in such fragments (7) (8) and therefore does not appear to be under immediate threat. No other major threats to this colourful butterfly are known at present.

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Orsis bluewing butterfly conservation

As the Orsis bluewing butterfly has been shown to be abundant in many recent surveys (7) (8), there is no need at present for any species-specific conservation action. The Atlantic forest in which this species lives is, however, one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world (2) (11), and although the Orsis bluewing butterfly thrives in fragmented habitat, restored areas may prove to be important wildlife corridors between these fragments (12).

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Find out more

Find out more about butterflies of the Americas:

Find out more about the Atlantic forest:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.
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Glossary

Atlantic forest
A highly biodiverse region found along the east coast of South America, comprising several different vegetation types, including high-altitude grassland, and lowland and montane forest.
Frugivorous
Fruit-eating.
Genus
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
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References

  1. Freitas, A.V.L. and Brown Jr, K.S. (2004) Phylogeny of the Nymphalidae (Lepidoptera). Systematic Biology53(3): 363-383.
  2. Uehara-Prado, M., Brown Jr, K.S. and Freitas, A.V.L. (2005) Biological traits of frugivorous butterflies in a fragmented and a continuous landscape in the south Brazilian Atlantic Forest. Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society, 59(2): 96-106.
  3. Klimaitis, J.F. (2000) Cien Mariposas Argentinas. Editorial Albatros, Buenos Aires.
  4. Scott, J.A. (1986) Butterflies of North America: A Natural History and Field Guide. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California.
  5. Bonfantti, D., Di Mare, R.A. and Giovenardi, R. (2009) Butterflies (Lepidoptera: Papilionoidea and Hesperioidea) from two forest fragments in northern Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Check List, 5(4): 819-829.
  6. Francini, R.B., Duarte, M., Mielke, O.H.H., Caldas, A. and Freitas, A.V.L. (2011) Butterflies (Lepidoptera, Papilionoidea and Hesperioidea) of the “Baixada Santista” region, coastal São Paulo, southeastern Brazil. Revista Brasileira de Entomologia, 55(1):55-68.
  7. Ribeiro, D.B., Batista, R., Prado, P.I., Brown Jr, K.S. and Freitas, A.V.L. (2012) The importance of small scales to the fruit-feeding butterfly assemblages in a fragmented landscape. Biodiversity and Conservation, 21: 811-827.
  8. Uehara-Prado, M., Brown Jr, K.S. and Freitas, A.V.L. (2007) Species richness, composition and abundance of fruit-feeding butterflies in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest: comparison between a fragmented and a continuous landscape. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 16(1): 43-54.
  9. Bustos, E.O.N. (2009) Mariposas diurnas (Lepidoptera: Papilionoidea y Hesperioidea) del Parque Nacional Igazú, Provincia de Misiones, Argentina. Tropical Lepidoptera Research, 19(2): 71-81.
  10. DeVries, P.J. (1987)The Butterflies of Costa Rica and their Natural History. Volume 1: Papilionidae, Pieridae and Nymphalidae. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
  11. Conservation International: Biodiversity Hotspots - Atlantic Forest (May, 2013)
    http://www.conservation.org/where/priority_areas/hotspots/south_america/Atlantic-Forest/Pages/default.aspx
  12. Furlanetti, P.P.R. (2010) A Comunidade de Borboletas Frugívoras de Áreas em Processo de Restauração, Fragmentos de Floresta Estacional Semidecidual e Pastagens. Masters Thesis, Universidade Estudual Paulista, Botacatu. Available at:
    http://www.pg.fca.unesp.br/Teses/PDFs/Arq0487.pdf
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Image credit

Male Orsis bluewing butterfly  
Male Orsis bluewing butterfly

© Larry E. Valentine

Larry E. Valentine
Caixa Postal 146
Itanhandu,
MG
37464-000
Brasil
fazendapedranegra@yahoo.com

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