25 October 2014

Revision to the Common Names of Butterflies 3

A Revision to the Common Names of Butterflies
Part 3 : An Analysis of Name Changes

In this continuing series of our discussion and recommendations of butterflies' English Common Name changes, we look at a further six species grouped under various proposed name changes and analyse them. We had, in part 2 of this series, established a baseline for the biogeographical regions which formed the origins of some of these name changes, and also the available literature covering these species.

We reiterate that the zoogeographical subregion of the Indo-Malayan ecozone, known as the Sundanian Subregion (or often called Sundaland) is the area of interest where species of butterflies have been assigned common names by various authors. It is largely this Sundaland subregion which we are concerned with, pertaining to the butterfly fauna of this region, and from which we base our literature reviews of books published about the butterflies in these countries.

For the benefit of our readers who are viewing this Part 3 of this discussion series, we would like to explain that a number of proposed changes were made by Dr Laurence Kirton in his recent book, A Naturalist's Guide to the Butterflies of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. We analyse these changes and state our agreements or alternative views, and recommendations for future publications to consider.

The first group that we analyse would be the Eurema or Grass Yellow species. Referring to the earliest reference literature, The Identification of Indian Butterflies by Col W.H. Evans 1927, we note that this genus was known then as Terias. Two species' names were affected by Dr Kirton's proposed changes as far as the Singapore butterfly fauna are concerned.

Excerpt from the Identification of Indian Butterflies by WH Evans, 1927

The first, is Eurema andersonii andersonii. The common name quoted in Dr Kirton's book is One Spot Grass Yellow. In tracing the historical "etymology" of this English Common Name, we found that in Evans' book, the name One Spot Grass Yellow was originally coined for Eurema (Terias) sari sodalis which was then incorrectly considered a synonym of E. andersonii. However, E. sari sodalis was declared a distinct species and assigned the common name of Chocolate Grass Yellow, leaving the synonymous species of E. andersonii to claim the name One Spot Grass Yellow.

Anderson's Grass Yellow feeding at Mile-A-Minute flowers

However, we feel that, as E. andersonii, is not the only species amongst the Eurema group to have a single cell spot, and should not lay claim to this common name as it could cause confusion. This is because the cell spots form part of the diagnostic features of separating the Eurema group of species. In the Butterflies of Singapore (2010), we used the common name Anderson's Grass Yellow, taking our cue from the scientific name Eurema andersonii andersonii. Precedents of using a common name that originates from the scientific name are not new and we do not need to elaborate on this.

Checking with other literature of butterflies in the region, we find that the Butterflies of Thailand 2nd Edition by Pisuth Ek-Amnuay also makes reference to this species as Anderson's Grass Yellow. The 1st edition of the book, published in 2006, also calls it by this name.

Recommendation : Eurema andersonii andersonii should retain its name Anderson's Grass Yellow.

The second Eurema species of interest is E. simulatrix tecmessa. In the Butterflies of Singapore, we did not coin an English Common Name for this species, leaving the scientific name as it was. Dr Kirton makes reference to it as the Changeable Grass Yellow, whilst Butterflies of Thailand calls it the Hill Grass Yellow. An article in Wikipedia coined the name deNiceville's Grass Yellow for E. simulatrix tecmessa, although at species level, this same article refers to E. simulatrix as Changeable Grass Yellow.

A trio of Forest Grass Yellows puddling at a damp sandbank

ButterflyCircle had earlier coined the name Forest Grass Yellow for this species, due to its preference to remain in the forested nature reserves and rarely, if ever, seen outside the sanctuary of the forests. Whilst there would be no right or wrong in some of these common names, which certainly vary over geographical areas and depending on the propensity for active groups to invent new names for the local butterflies, we cannot imagine why this species is so "changeable" as to deserve the name Changeable Grass Yellow. The closest critter that we know locally is the Changeable Lizard (Calotes versicolor) and we certainly know why it deserves that name!

Recommendation : Eurema simulatrix tecmessa should be known as Forest Grass Yellow.

A male Malay Lacewing feeding at Ixora flowers

We next move to the Nymphalidae family. The first two names of contention are those belonging to the Lacewings or genus Cethosia. The first species of note is the Malay Lacewing (Cethosia hypsea hypsina). At Dr Kirton's sharing session at the launch of his book, one of the motivations for a name change that relates to this species probably came from "where the original name refers to a people group".

In trying to understand the rationale behind this, we can only surmise that Dr Kirton referred to the racial connotations that the common names imply. For example, he proposed that the Malay Lacewing should be renamed Malayan Lacewing. Whilst there are certainly precedents that are coined for butterfly names to make reference to nationality/country, we do not see how the reference that is based on racial origins would offend any particular race. For example, "Chinese" and "Indian", found in butterfly names, can both refer to the race as well as the people of a country. To deprive the Malays of the honour of their race being in the name of a beautiful butterfly may even raise a protest that it is discriminatory, since the Chinese and Indians have that privilege!

It would appear consistent in Dr Kirton's approach to rename everything that contains the word Malay to Malayan. In this context, we can find many books and references that continue to use the word Malay in butterfly names e.g. Malay Lacewing, Malay Viscount, Malay Baron and so on. Other than Dr Kirton's latest book, most the known literature that we have found makes reference to the common names with Malay in them.

Recommendation : Cethosia hypsea hypsina should retain its name Malay Lacewing.

The next species in the Lacewing group is Cethosia methypsea methypsea. Dr Kirton uses the new name Northern Orange Lacewing for this species. In our literature research, Pisuth uses Orange Lacewing in his Butterflies of Thailand book. This species, which was previously called C. penthesilea methypsea, was not known during Evans' time, hence there was no reference to it. In recent years, it has been reclassified as C. methypsea methypsea.

A Plain Lacewing takes a rest in the shade after feeding

This Wikipedia page has the original subspecies methypsea called Plain Lacewing, whilst the subspecies paksha has been designated Orange Lacewing. In Butterflies of Singapore (2010) as well as the first book on butterflies in Singapore, A Guide to the Common Butterflies of Singapore (1996) by Steven Neo and Malaysian Butterflies - An Introduction (1983) by Prof Yong Hoi-Sen, all refer to this species as the Plain Lacewing. Furthermore, we feel that adding cardinal directions as prefixes to common names tends to be controversial, as placing a name "northern" can get quite meaningless when butterflies move freely across regions,

Recommendation : Cethosia methypsea methypsea should retain its name Plain Lacewing

The Malay Yeoman puddling at a damp concrete kerb

The next species of interest falls into the same category that we discussed regarding the change from the race Malay to the country Malayan (which should rightfully be Malaysian, if we are to be up to date!). Hence it would be consistent to recommend that the common name for the species Cirrochroa emalea emalea to retain its common name that is found in many reference books as "Malay Yeoman". This name has been used as far back as 1927 in Evans' book as well.

Recommendation : Cirrochroa emalea emalea should retain its name Malay Yeoman

The Cruiser's English common name has usually be used to refer to the species Vindula dejone erotella in Corbet & Pendlebury's Butterflies of the Malay Peninsula (1992) although in the first edition of the book, it was used for the species Vindula erota erotella before research showed that there were actually two distinct species now known as V. dejone erotella and V. erota chersonesia (in Malaysia) and V. erota erota (the continental subspecies in Thailand).

A male Lesser Cruiser puddling at a damp sandbank

Dr Kirton proposed Lesser Cruiser for V. dejone. In Pisuth's book, he refers to this species as the Malayan Cruiser, and uses Common Cruiser for the species V. erota erota. Tracing back to the historical names and taking reference from the two earliest documentation for this species, it is clear that both Evans (1927) and C&P1 (1934) intended the name Cruiser for V. erota. This leaves us to contemplate which name to use for C. dejone. At this point in time, we would be inclined to agree with Dr Kirton, and adopt the common name Lesser Cruiser for the species V. dejone erotella.

A female Lesser Cruiser feeds on Mile-A-Minute flowers

Recommendation : Vindula dejone erotella should henceforth be called by the name Lesser Cruiser

Text by Khew SK : Photos by Sunny Chir, Chng CK, Goh EC, Federick Ho, Khew SK, Loke PF, Nelson Ong and Anthony Wong

References :

[BPMST] A Naturalist's Guide to the Butterflies of P. Malaysia, Singapore & Thailand, Laurence G Kirton : John Beaufoy Publishing 2014
[C&P1] The Butterflies of The Malay Peninsula, A.S. Corbet and H.M. Pendlebury, 1st Edition, Kyle & Palmer, 1934.
[C&P4] The Butterflies of the Malay Peninsula, A.S. Corbet and H.M. Pendlebury, 4th Edition, Revised by Col John Eliot, Malaysian Nature Society, 1992
[BOT1] Butterflies of Thailand, Pisuth Ek-Amnuay, 1st Edition, Amarin Printing & Publishing, 2006
[BOT2] Butterflies of Thailand, Pisuth Ek-Amnuay, 1st Edition, Amarin Printing & Publishing, 2012
[CMB] Common Malayan Butterflies, R. Morrell, Longmans Malaysia, 1960
[MBAI] Malaysian Butterflies - An Introduction, Yong Hoi-Sen, Tropical Press, Malaysia, 1983
[BOS] Field Guide to the Butterflies of Singapore, Khew SK, Ink On Paper Publishing, Singapore, 2010
[BBSEA] Butterflies of Borneo & South East Asia, Kazuhisa Otsuka, Hornbill Books, Malaysia, 2001
[IIB] Identification of Indian Butterflies, W.A. Evans, Diocesan Press, India, 1927
[GCBOS] Guide to the Common Butterflies of Singapore, Steven Neo, Science Centre Singapore, 1996

Further Reading :

A Revision to the Common Names of Butterflies : Part 1
A Revision to the Common Names of Butterflies : Part 2

18 October 2014

Life History of the Malay Baron

Life History of the Malay Baron (Euthalia monina monina)

Butterfly Biodata:
Genus: Euthalia Hübner, 1819
Species: monina Fabricius, 1787
Subspecies: monina Fabricius, 1787
Wingspan of Adult Butterfly: 50-70mm
Local Caterpillar Host Plants: Macaranga bancana (Sapotaceae, common name: Common Mahang), Bhesa paniculata (Celastraceae, common name: Malayan Spindle Tree).

A male Malay Baron, -f. decorata.

A male Malay Baron, -f. decorata.

A male Malay Baron, -f. monina.

Physical Description of Adult Butterfly:
The Malay Baron exhibits sexual dimorphism. On the upperside, the male is dark brown. In the typical form -f. monina, the distal border on the hindwing is blue and bears a series of small black sagittate markings. In form -f. decorata, the upperside is paler brown with more clearly defined post-discal fasciae and the hindwing has a coppery green border. In form -f. gardineri, the upperside is dark brown with obscure fasciae and the hindwing border is not additionally coloured. At times, males could appear bearing appearances integrating the above 3 forms. The female resembles the female Tanaecia iapis (Horsfield's Baron) with the exception of the presence of a dark zigzagged line in the white post-discal band on the forewing.

A female Malay Baron.

A male Malay Baron, -f. monina.

11 October 2014

Butterfly of the Month - October 2014

Butterfly of the Month - October 2014
The Blue Pansy (Junonia orithya wallacei)

This month, we feature a pretty urban sun-loving butterfly to bring some colour and cheer to our readers. The Blue Pansy, particularly the male, seldom fails to attract the attention of any nature lover who sees it in the field. Its bright blue hindwings and eyespots is a good example of Mother Nature's creativity in putting some beauty into our daily lives.

The local subspecies of the Blue Pansy (Junonia orithya wallacei) is named in honour of the renowned British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist and biologist, Alfred Russell Wallace. His book, The Malay Archipelago, documents his travels and findings in this part of the world. He recorded many of his adventures and discoveries in this book, considered to be one of the best of all journals in scientific exploration in the 19th century.

A road named after A.R. Wallace in Singapore

Wallace's exploits in South East Asia generated widespread interest amongst scientists and ecologists, especially his theories on evolution through natural selection. In particular, Wallace was believed to have collected specimens from our very own Bukit Timah Hill in Singapore. Such was his influence in Singapore that there is even a road named after him! More recently, at the Dairy Farm Nature Park, we can also find the Wallace Trail and the Wallace Education Centre, which was set up to promote environmental education through fieldwork and to encourage nature conservation.

Speaking of the environment, we look forward with greater optimism as the appreciation and the call for the conservation of our environment and biodiversity is gaining traction amongst NGOs and also government organisations. Given the limited land mass of about 714 sqkm in Singapore, it has done relatively well in balancing development and the conservation of its remaining nature areas. There is little to lose and every sqft of our little red dot has to be carefully planned to allow nature and biodiversity to co-exist in harmony with progress and development.

Hobbyist and citizen scientist groups such as ButterflyCircle continue to survey, document, record and research into butterflies in the Singapore environment to help government organisations to better craft policies and direct efforts to conserve our butterfly biodiversity. Species data, caterpillar host plants & early stages, habitat preferences, threatened colonies and ecological behaviour of butterflies are shared via this blog and other reports.

Male Blue Pansy (top) and Female Blue Pansy (bottom)

Coming back to our pretty butterfly of the month, the Blue Pansy is one of four species of Pansies of the genus Junonia found in Singapore. The Blue Pansy is common is parks, gardens and open grassy wasteland. It flies rapidly with a flap-glide flight and is alert and skittish. It is related to the American Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) and shares some of the physical characteristics with its US cousin.

A female (left) and male (right) Blue Pansy feeding in unison on Bidens flowers

Males of this species are often observed to "dogfight" with each other, and individuals engage in a rapid spiral flight often going up to 10 metres or more. During certain hours of the day, both the males and females may be observed to perch on the tops of leaves with their wings opened flat to sunbathe.

Blue Pansy and their favourite nectaring plants

They prefer to feed on flowers like Lantana, Bidens and other small wildflowers. Occasionally they are seen "puddling" at damp areas on the ground amongst leaf litter and grasses. The species has a wide distribution in Singapore, found in coastal areas, urban parks, nature reserves from Pulau Ubin in the north, mainland Singapore and as far south as Pulau Semakau.

When the weather gets warmer as the day progresses, they are often found perched with their wings folded upright amongst shrubbery and tall grasses. Whilst the upperside of the Blue Pansy is attractive coloured, the underside bears a more subdued and cryptic colouration that allows the butterfly to be reasonably well-camouflaged amongst the undergrowth.

A newly-eclosed male Blue Pansy perching on a dried blade of grass

The male Blue Pansy features black forewings with a pale yellow subapical band and post discal ocelli. The hidwing is a bright blue with a prominent black-rimmed, orange-purple eyespot at the tornal area. The basal area of the hindwing is black.

Females of the Blue Pansy, showing the variability of the colours of the hindwings from totally brown to a restricted patch of blue

Females are more drably coloured usually featuring a brown upperside and occasionally sporting a reduced patch of blue, usually restricted to the submarginal area of the hindwing. The hindwing ocelli of the female are also larger when compared to the male.

A newly eclosed Blue Pansy perching onto its pupal case whilst waiting for its wings to dry

The caterpillars of the Blue Pansy have been successfully bred in Singapore on the Common Asystasia (Asystasia gangetica), a low, ground hugging "weed" that is found commonly in urban gardens and parks, as well as growing as ground cover in disturbed areas at the edges of our nature reserves. This plant is also host to the caterpillars of the Autumn Leaf (Doleschallia bisaltide), Jacintha Eggfly (Hypolimnas bolina jacintha) and Great Eggfly (Hypolimnas bolina bolina)

A mating pair of Blue Pansy perched on the flower of its caterpillar host plant, the Common Asystasia.

Text by Khew SK : Photos by Chng CK, Jerome Chua, Huang CJ, Federick Ho, Khew SK, Koh CH, Loke PF, Nelson Ong, Jonathan Soong, Horace Tan and Benjamin Yam.

08 October 2014

Butterflies Galore! : Spotted Black Crow

Butterflies Galore!
The Spotted Black Crow (Euploea crameri bremeri)

This Spotted Black Crow was feeding at the flowers of the StringBush at the Butterfly Hill on Pulau Ubin last weekend. It appeared to be very hungry and continued to feed for over half an hour, moving from flower to flower of the bush. A moderately rare species, the Spotted Black Crow's caterpillar has been successfully bred on Gymnanthera oblonga (Sea Rubber Vine) and Parsonsia helicandra from the lactiferous family of plants Apocynaceae.

The Spotted Black Crow flies slowly when undisturbed, and is sometimes observed puddling at sandy stream banks in the nature reserves. A closely-related species, the Blue Spotted Crow (Euploea midamus singapura) is very similar in appearance but has more squarish subapical spots on the forewing and lacks a small spot at the costal area of the forewing.

04 October 2014

Life History of the Common Redeye

Life History of the Common Redeye (Matapa aria)

Butterfly Biodata:
Genus: Matapa Moore, 1881
Species: aria Moore, 1866
Wingspan of Adult Butterfly: 35-40mm
Caterpillar Local Host Plants: Bambusa_heterostachya (Poaceae; common name: Malay Dwarf Bamboo), Bambusa multiplex (Poaceae, common name: Hedge Bamboo, Chinese Dwarf Bamboo), other Bambusa spp., Dendrocalamus spp.

A male Common Redeye showing the brand on the forewing.

The close-up view of the red eye of a Common Redeye.

Physical Description of Adult Butterfly:
On the upperside, the wings are dark buff brown to black with the hindwing cilia pale yellowish grey. The male has a oblique, greyish brown, brand in spaces 1b and 2 on the forewing. On the underside, the wings are ochreous brown. The eyes are red.

Field Observations of Butterfly Behaviour:
The Common Redeye is moderately rare in Singapore although its caterpillars can be found rather easily on its host plants (various bamboo spp.) on many occasions. The adults are mainly sighted at locations where there are bamboo clumps in the vicinity, and such locations could be urban parks, gardens, wastelands or the nature reserves. The adults are fast flyers and rests with its wings folded upright.