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Ornithoptera priamus, commonly known as the common green birdwing, Cape York Birdwing, Priam's Birdwing or Northern Birdwing, is a widespread species of birdwing butterfly found in the central and south Moluccas, New Guinea, Bismarck Archipelago, Solomon Islands, and northeast Australia.
The specific name of Ornithoptera priamus, is named after Priam (/ˈpraɪ.əm/, Greek Πρίαμος Priamos), the king of Troy during the Trojan War.
- For terms see External morphology of Lepidoptera.
Male. The upperside fore wings are velvety black. There is a green (most races) subcostal stripe and a green (most subspecies) marginal stripe bordering the termen, tormen and dorsum of the wing. The sex brand is black and longish. The underside of the forewing is black. There is a chain of bluish or green postdiscal spots.
The hind wings are green. At the wing's leading edge (costa) there are basal yellow-gold spots. There is also a postdiscal chain of black spots. The edge of the hind wing is black.
The underside is dark-green or bluish. The yellow-golden spots are transparent. The veins are partly black and the marginal edge of the wing is black. At the outer edge there is a postdiscal chain of black spots.
The body (abdomen) is yellow. Head and thorax are black. The underside of thorax has a red hair-coat.
Female: Ornithoptera priamus is sexually dimorphic. The female is larger than the male and in the upper range of the wing-span. The basic colour of the female is dark-brown. There is a chain of white postdiscal spots on the fore wings. There is a chain of larger white postdiscal spots with dark centres on the hindwing. The underside is very similar to the upper.
Larva: First instar larvae are wine-red on hatching. They soon turn black or dark brown. All segments have soft tubercles with stiff ends bearing black spines. On 4th segment tubercles are red. The tubercles are dark brown on the other segments. In the second instar, the tubercles lack spines, the 4th tubercles are light red and on the other segments they are the same colour as the body. In the third instar, there is a white to pink saddlemark on the 4th segment. In the fourth and fifth instars, the ground colour is ashy-grey to brown, the saddlemark on the 4th segment is white and the tubercles on the 4th segment are white. There may be saddlemarks on the 5th segment and the 6th segment. The tips of the tubercle are black and the osmeterium is dark red.
Pupa: The pupa is yellowish-green or brown and is marked with greyish veins as in a leaf. It may have a broad dorsal pale saddle mark. The abdomen has 8 pairs of sharp dorsal processes, directed laterally.
Ornithoptera priamus is a variable species. It was originally described from Seram Island, Indonesia. As in other species of the genus Ornithoptera, the females are larger and less vividly coloured than the males, them being mainly blackish or dark brown with patterns in pale brown, yellow or white. Nonetheless, females are extremely variable, and they may have colour patterns similar to females of other Ornithoptera species.
In males, iridescent areas of the wing are typically green, although some subspecies endemic to island groups east of New Guinea have blue males. These subspecies are O. priamus urvilleanus (New Ireland, Bougainville, and Solomon Islands), O. priamus miokensis (Mioko Island), and O. priamus caelestis (Louisiade Archipelago).
However, it is likely that O. priamus miokensis is actually a hybrid between O. priamus urvillenaus and O. priamus bornemanni from the neighbouring islands of New Britain and Bougainville. Specimens of this subspecies are variable, and can be identical to specimens of either parent, or intermediates. Immigration may also explain its rarity, as Mioko is a small island and, as of 2001, its hostplants had been reduced to a few Aristolochia tagala vines growing in a local village.
Several species currently recognised as distinct have previously been considered subspecies of O. priamus by different authors. These are: O. aesacus, O. croesus, O. euphorion, and O. richmondia. The last two are still regarded as subspecies of O. priamus by some.
There have been as many as 99 subspecies described (most of which are synonyms of O. priamus poseidon), with many more named variants and forms described for both sexes. Some list as few as six subspecies (including nominal), but a taxonomic review is needed and most recognise more:
- O. p. admiralitatis – Admiralty Islands and nearby smaller islands, Papua New Guinea
- O. p. albiro – Tayandu Islands, Indonesia (may be junior synonym of O. p. hecuba)
- O. p. arruana – Aru Islands, Indonesia
- O. p. aureus – Arfak Mountains of West Papua, Indonesia (may be junior synonym of O. p. poseidon)
- O. p. boisduvali – Woodlark Island, Papua New Guinea
- O. p. bornemanni – New Britain and nearby smaller islands, Papua New Guinea
- O. p. caelestis – Louisiade Archipelago, Papua New Guinea
- O. p. demophanes – D'Entrecasteaux and Trobriand Islands, Papua New Guinea
- O. p. garainaensis – vicinity of Garaina, Papua New Guinea? (may be junior synonym of O. p. poseidon)
- O. p. gebeensis – Gebe Island, Indonesia
- O. p. hecuba – Kai Islands, Indonesia
- O. p. impensis – Manipa Island, Indonesia
- O. p. kassandra – Yapen Island of West Papua, Indonesia
- O. p. macalpinei – Iron and McIlwraith Ranges of Queensland, Australia (may be junior synonym of O. p. poseidon)
- O. p. miokensis – Mioko Island, Papua New Guinea
- O. p. poseidon – New Guinea and northern Torres Strait Islands
- O. p. priamus – Seram, Saparua and Ambon, Indonesia
- O. p. pronomus – southern Torres Strait Islands of Queensland, Australia (may be junior synonym of O. p. poseidon)
- O. p. sterrensis – Mt. Sterren of West Papua, Indonesia (possible junior synonym of O. p. poseidon)
- O. p. teucrus – Biak and Supiori of West Papua, Indonesia
- O. p. wituensis – Vitu Islands, Papua New Guinea (may be junior synonym of O. p. bornemanni)
- O. p. urvillianus – New Ireland and Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands
Overall this species remains widespread, but some subspecies are threatened by habitat destruction, with those endemic to smaller islands (e.g. O. priamus miokensis and O. priamus boisduvali) of greatest conservation concern. Like all birdwing butterflies, O. priamus is listed on CITES appendix II, which restricts international export to those in possession of a permit.
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- Ornithoptera Priamus Urvillianus Butterfly[dead link]
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- EntomID-PNG Specimen Database
- CITES (2011). Appendices I, II and III. Version 27 April 2011.
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- Haugum, J. & Low, A.M. (1978-1985). A Monograph of the Birdwing Butterflies. 2 volumes. Scandinavian Press, Klampenborg. 663 pp.
- Heidelberger, D., and J. B. Heppner. (1999). Ornithoptera priamus biology in Queensland, Australia Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). Tropical Lepidoptera 10(1):34.Life cycle images
- Straatman, R. (1969). Notes on the biology and hostplant associations of Ornithoptera priamus urvilleanus and O. victoriae (Papilionidae) Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 23:69-76.