North American Ecology (US and Canada)
Eurytides marcellus range throughout the eastern United States, although are most abundant in the southeast.
Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )
occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Central Pennsylvania west to eastern Great Plains south through most of Florida and into Texas. Very rare stragglers as far as New England.
The zebra swallowtail butterfly has a wing span of 5-9 cm. It has long, triangular wings with swordlike tails. The color and size varies between spring and summer butterflies. The early spring zebra swallowtail is smaller with pale greenish-white wings which are crossed by black stripes and bands. They also have shorter tails. The summer zebra swallowtail is larger with light blue-green wings, which are crossed by black stripes and bands, and have longer tails. The hindwings of both the spring and summer zebra swallowtail have two deep blue spots at the base and a red spot closer to the body.
Caterpillars are generally hairless. They have a forked gland called the osmeterium that can protrude from the back of the head if the butterfly is alarmed. This releases a bad smell that is used as defense mechanism. There are two color morphologies of caterpillars. The first is green with yellow and black bands, and the other is dark brown with orange and white bands.
Range wingspan: 5 to 9 cm.
Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Catalog Number: USNM USNMENT781128
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Entomology
Collector(s): F. Forbes
Year Collected: 1935
Locality: Greenwood Co., Kan, Greenwood, Kansas, United States
The zebra swallowtail prefers corridors of wooded land alongside bodies of water such as riversides, lakeshores, marshes and open moist woods.
Habitat Regions: temperate
Terrestrial Biomes: forest
Other Habitat Features: riparian
Comments: Meadows, riversides, lakeshores and marshes; broad-leaved woodlands, virtually anywhere that pawpaw grows. Also dry pine or pine-oak woods at least in Florida with dwarf pawpaw. Almost any habitat with adequate foodplants.
Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
The zebra swallowtail rarely strays away from the habitats where various species of pawpaw are found. The common food plants for the larvae are the pawpaw and dwarf pawpaw. Some larvae will eat other caterpillars found on the same plant. The adult zebra swallowtail will eat nectar from a variety of flowers. Adults generally eat from taller flowers, because they have a long, flexible "tongue" called a proboscis and can feed from longer, tubed flowers.
Animal Foods: insects
Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems; nectar
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Nectarivore )
Flowering Plants Visited by Papilio marcellus in Illinois
(a scientific synonym of this butterfly is Eurytides marcellus; observations are from Robertson, Fothergill & Vaughn; this butterfly is the Zebra Swallowtail)
Apiaceae: Cicuta maculata sn (Rb), Heracleum maximum sn (Rb); Asteraceae: Erigeron philadelphicus sn (FV), Senecio glabellus sn (FV), Taraxacum officinale sn (FV); Boraginaceae: Lithospermum canescens sn fq (Rb); Brassicaceae: Dentaria laciniata sn (Rb); Caprifoliaceae: Viburnum dentatum sn (Rb); Cornaceae: Cornus racemosa sn (Rb); Fabaceae: Melilotus alba sn (Rb), Robinia pseudoacacia sn np (Rb), Trifolium pratense sn (Rb, FV); Fumariaceae: Dicentra cucullaria sn np (Rb); Grossulariaceae: Ribes missouriense sn (Rb); Lamiaceae: Blephilia ciliata sn (Rb), Stachys palustris sn np (Rb); Polemoniaceae: Phlox divaricata laphamii sn (Rb); Santalaceae: Comandra umbellata sn (Rb); Verbenaceae: Phyla lanceolata sn (FV), Verbena stricta sn (Rb)
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Life History and Behavior
In the life cycle of the butterfly, it takes about one month for the zebra swallowtail to mature from an egg to an adult. The chrysalis, or pupa, is attached to a stem or leaf by the tail and by a girdle of silk around the thorax. It hangs head upward in this position.
Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis
An adult Eurytides marcellus butterfly can live up to 6 months in its natural environment.
Status: wild: 6 (high) months.
Status: wild: 6 (high) months.
Males usually patrol places near host plants searching for females. Small aggregations of patrolling males often form close to mud puddles or moist stream banks.
Female zebra swallowtails lay their eggs singly on the underside of pawpaw leaves.
Key Reproductive Features: fertilization (Internal ); oviparous
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Eurytides marcellus
Below is the sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen.
Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.
-- end --
Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Eurytides marcellus
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 13
Species With Barcodes: 1
This butterfly needs no special protective status.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
State of Michigan List: no special status
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Degree of Threat: D : Unthreatened throughout its range, communities may be threatened in minor portions of the range or degree of variation falls within natural variation
Biological Research Needs: None.
Global Protection: Many to very many (13 to >40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Currently it does not adversely affect humans.
Economic benefits from this species have yet to be discovered.
The Zebra Swallowtail (Protographium marcellus, formerly listed under genera Eurytides, Iphiclides, Graphium and Papilio by some authorities) is a swallowtail butterfly native to the eastern United States and southeast Canada. Its distinctive wing shape and long tails make it easy to identify, and its black and white-striped pattern is reminiscent of a zebra. The butterflies are closely associated with pawpaws, and are rarely found far from these trees. The green or black caterpillars feed on the leaves of various pawpaw species, while the adults feed on flower nectar and minerals from damp soil.
The Zebra Swallowtail has a wingspan of 6.4 to 10.4 cm (2.5 to 4.1 in). The triangular wings are white to greenish-white with black longitudinal stripes. A pair of swordlike tails extend from the hind wings. The inner margin of the hind wing has two blue spots on the corner and a red spot near the body. A red stripe runs along the middle of the ventral hind wing. P. marcellus has two seasonal forms, one occurring in the spring and the other in the summer. Spring forms are smaller, more white, and have short, black tails with white tips. Summer forms are larger, have broader black stripes, and longer, black tails with white edges.
The Zebra Swallowtail can be seen from late March to August in the northern portion of its range and from February to December in the southern portion. It has two broods in the north and three to four in the south, with the first brood being the most numerous.
Males will patrol near host plants in search of females, flying swiftly and directly. They usually fly 0.5 to 1.8 meters (2 to 6 ft) above the ground. Females will fly slowly when searching for suitable host plants. Both males and females avidly visit flowers, including species from the families Apocynaceae, Brassicaceae, Fabaceae, Lythraceae, Polemoniaceae, and Rosaceae. Males participate in a behavior known as puddling, in which individuals congregate on sand, gravel, or moist soil to obtain salts and amino acids. These nutrients aid the male in reproduction. Other food sources include rotting fruit and urine.
Since the caterpillars are cannibalistic, females lay their eggs singly on pawpaw leaves or on the tree trunks. The round egg is pale green, later turning an orange-brown color. Young caterpillars are black with lighter colored transverse stripes. Older larvae have two color forms. The more common form is green with yellow and white transverse stripes; the rarer form is black and banded with white and orange. In both forms, between the swollen thorax and the abdomen, there is a yellow, black, and bluish-white band. The larva has a yellow, foul-smelling, forked gland called an osmeterium which it will use to deter predators, especially spiders and ants. The chrysalis is either green or brown, and is more compact compared to chrysalids in the genus Papilio. Three small horns project from the head and thorax. The chrysalis hibernates in areas of its range with cold winters.
The Zebra Swallowtail caterpillar feeds only on species within the genus Asimina. Commonly used species include A. angustifolia (Slimleaf Pawpaw), A. incana (Woolly Pawpaw), A. parviflora (Smallflower Pawpaw), A. reticulata (Netted Pawpaw), A. tetramera (Four-petal Pawpaw), and A. triloba (Common Pawpaw). P. marcellus caterpillars ingest chemicals called annonaceous acetogenins from their host plants, which are retained in the body tissues of both the caterpillar and the adult, and may help chemically protect the butterfly from birds.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Eurytides marcellus.|
|Wikispecies has information related to: Protographium marcellus|
- Brock, Jim P.; Kaufman, Kenn (2003). Butterflies of North America. New York City, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 24. ISBN 0-618-15312-8.
- Pyle, Robert Michael (1981). National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. NY: Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 347–348. ISBN 0-394-51914-0.
- Opler, Paul A. "Zebra Swallowtail Eurytides marcellus". Butterflies and Moths of North America. Big Sky Institute at Montana State University. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
- Shull, Ernest M (1987). The Butterflies of Indiana. IN: Indiana Academy of Science. p. 81. ISBN 0-253-31292-2.
- Cech, Rick; Tudor, Guy (2005). Butterflies of the East Coast. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 61. ISBN 0-691-09055-6.
- Scott, James A. (1986). The Butterflies of North America. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. pp. 162–163. ISBN 0-8047-2013-4.
- Iftner, David C.; Shuey, John A.; Calhoun, John V. (1992). Butterflies and Skippers of Ohio. OH: College of Biological Sciences and The Ohio State University. p. 67. ISBN 0-86727-107-8.
- Medley, Scott R.; Eisner, Thomas (January 1996). "Sodium:A male moth's gift to its offspring" (PDF). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 93 (2): 809–813. doi:10.1073/pnas.93.2.809. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
- Wagner, David L. (2005). Caterpillars of Eastern North America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 82. ISBN 0-691-12144-3.
- Glassberg, Jeffrey (1999). Butterflies through Binoculars: The East. New York City, NY: Oxford University Press. p. 44. ISBN 0-19-510668-7.
- Hall, Donald W.; Butler, Jerry F. (September 1998). "Zebra swallowtail". Featured Creatures. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
- Edwin Möhn, 2002 Schmetterlinge der Erde, Butterflies of the world Part XIIII (14), Papilionidae VIII: Baronia, Euryades, Protographium, Neographium, Eurytides. Edited by Erich Bauer and Thomas Frankenbach Keltern : Goecke & Evers ; Canterbury : Hillside Books. ISBN 978-3-931374-87-7 All species and subspecies are included, also most of the forms. Several females are shown the first time in colour.
To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!