Overview

Brief Summary

Morpho peleides is easily recognized by the iridescent blue wings. It is possible to differentiate between other Morpho species and M. peleides due to its dark brown and pupillate eye spots on the underside (Young, A.M. & Muyshondt 1973).  It is found from Mexico to Columbia on both the Atlantic and the Pacific side of the continental divide (DeVries 1987), from sea level to 1800 m and can also be found in Trinidad (Urich & Emmel 1991). While M. peleides is sometimes considered a subspecies of Morpho helenor (Constantino & Corredor 2004), mainly there is considered to be two forms of M. peleides, one that is entirely iridescent blue on the top while the other has the blue highly reduced (Young, A.M. & Muyshondt 1973). Eggs of M. peleides are dome shaped and laid singly on the underside of host plant leaves. Host plants could be Mucuna spp. (Fabaceae), Machaerium  spp. (Fabaceae), and Pterocarpus spp. (Fabaceae). Larvae can reach up to 9 cm and are red and yellow. The development to go from an egg to an adult is around 115 days (Young & Muyshondt 1973).  Adults are most often found flying along rivers, road ways or any area where some sort of open path has been cut. Their flight has been described as “floppy” and “zigzag” however they are very adept at getting away from predators when necessary (DeVries 1987). Adults feed mostly on rotting fruit but have been seen feeding on mud and carrion as well (Young 1975). Males are most active between early morning until midday while females are most active right around midday. 

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Distribution

Morpho peleides, or the Blue Morpho, is one of the most well-known Neotropical butterflies due to its striking iridescent blue wings. M. peleides is sometimes considered a subspecies of M. helenor (Gerardo Lamas, (2004) Atlas of Neotropical Lepidoptera; Checklist: Part 4A; Hesperioidea – Papilionoidea). It is commonly found along forest trails, banana and coffee plantations, and woodland streams up an elevation of 1600 meters (DeVries 1987). It has a natural distribution from Mexico down to Northern South America (Janzen 2010). More specifically, Costa Rican habitats that harbor M. peleides include Pacific lowland evergreens (0-800m), Pacific mid-elevation (700-1600m), and Atlantic lowlands (0-500m) (DeVries 1987).

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Physical Description

Morphology

The Blue Morpho is easily recognized by its iridescent blue wings, whose color is a combination of a dark pigmented undercoat and a layer of refractory scales above. Iridescence is from diffraction of light off these upper wing scales. The ventral side of the wings is brown and black with 4 yellow “eyespots” that act as targets for predators to avoid aiming for the head or body (Goode 1999). They have a wingspan of 12.7-15.5 centimeters and a very irregular flight pattern, which can be partially attributed to its fermented diet (Henderson et al. 2010).

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Ecology

Trophic Strategy

The Morpho peleides feeds solely on leaves as a larva and then once transformed into a butterfly becomes nearly a complete frugivore. Once fully transformed, the butterfly feeds on fermented fruit and the occasional sap flow (Miller 2006). As stated above, this is the reason for its sporadic flight pattern. One interesting characteristic of M. peleides is that it exhibits territoriality, which is rare or absent in most butterfly species. Once a territory has been established, males will actively defend it by chasing rivals away (Scott 1986).

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Life History and Behavior

Life Cycle

The egg of the Morpho is hemispherical and green in coloration, which helps it blend in with the upper leaves where it is laid. Eggs are laid singly, usually only one egg is affixed to a leaf, although anywhere from 1-8 eggs may be laid on a single plant (Young & Muyshondt 1973). It takes up to 12 days for the egg to hatch (Goode 1999). During this time, the egg may change color many times to help camouflage them from predators. When first laid they are white or yellowish-green and will change to a richer green or brown depending on the substrate where they are laid (Goode 1999). Twenty-four hours prior to hatching, the egg takes on a shining dark brown-to-black color (Young & Muyshondt 1973). Once hatched, the larva, or caterpillar, eats its nutrient-rich eggshell. The caterpillars are colored brown, red and yellow, and ornamented with colorful tufts of hair (Goode 1999). The larva consists of a sclerotized head and 13 segments. The head bears simple eyes and hard mandibles. It also has 3 pairs of “true legs”, one on each thoracic segment. Finally, near the base of the mandibles are two small antennae important for distinguishing food (DeVries 1987). When Morpho caterpillars are mature they lose their bright colorations and develop excellent cryptic patternings (Goode 1999). The larva will feed on about 23 different species of plants, including Mimosoid and Papilionoid legumes (Fabaceae), including Macharium, Pterocarpus, Swartzia, Dalbergia, Mucuna, Lonchocarpus, Platymyscium and Paragonia (Bignoniaceae; DeVries 1987. There are five larval instars (Goode 1999). The entire caterpillar stage in M. peleides lasts roughly eight weeks before forming the chrysalis. The larva will anchor itself to the substrate, generally a twig or large leaf, and will rest between 36-48 hours while the chrysalis develops beneath the larval skin. The larval skin splits along sutures on its back to reveal the chrysalis. The chrysalis stage will last from a week to a few months. Weather plays a large factor in the duration, as they like to synchronize their emergence with the arrival of seasonal rains. In places where rain is extremely common, the Blue Morpho can mate year round and the chrysalis stage is short (Goode 1999). When the butterfly is ready to emerge, the skin fractures where the head and legs are positioned so that it may squeeze itself out of its shell. At first the butterfly’s wings are very small, but over the course of the next few minutes it will pump blood into its wings, drastically increasing their size until they are fully expanded. After this the upper and lower membranes fuse together and harden. This process can take several hours, leaving it vulnerable to attack. Once the wings are dried, the butterfly flies off (Goode 1999).

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Reproduction

Courtship rituals consist of various flying patterns such as zig-zag patterns or hovering beside each other. Males often follow females, transferring pheromones as they do so. If a male nears a female who is ready to mate, he lands and then they quickly mate, sometimes without any courtship ritual (Henderson et al. 2010). Mating can last from 15 minutes to 3 hours, but most rituals last about 30-40 minutes (Scott 1986). The main purpose of courtship is to make certain that the other butterfly is a healthy member of the right species.

In some cases, females display rejection behaviors. One such “rejection dance” involves the female to fly vertically in the air and then quickly dives downward to keep the male from following her (Scott 1986). In another rejection behavior the female attempts to mimic a male by flapping her wings vigorously.

Males often need about one day to finish maturing before they can mate. However females usually mate immediately and sometimes males even wait by the chrysalis before she emerges (Scott 1986).

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Morpho peleides

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Wikipedia

Morpho peleides

The Peleides Blue Morpho, Common Morpho,[1] or The Emperor[2] (Morpho peleides)[3] is an iridescent tropical butterfly found in Mexico, Central America, northern South America, Paraguay, and Trinidad. Some authorities[4] believe that peleides is a subspecies of Morpho helenor.[5]

The brilliant blue color in the butterfly's wings is caused by the diffraction of the light from millions of tiny scales on its wings. It uses this to frighten away predators, by flashing its wings rapidly. The wingspan of the Blue Morpho butterfly ranges from 7.5–20 cm (3.0–7.9 in). The entire Blue Morpho butterfly lifecycle, from egg to adult is only 115 days. Known larval foodplants are Leguminosae (Arachis hypogaea, Dioclea wilsonii, Inga spp., Lonchocarpus, Machaerium cobanense, Machaerium salvadorense, Machaerium seemannii, Medicago sativa, Mucuna mutisiana, Pithecellobium, Pterocarpus rohrii, Mucuna urens), and Bignoniaceae (Paragonia pyramidata). Morpho peleides drinks the juices from rotting fruits for food. Its favourites in captivity are mango, kiwi, and lychee. Morpho peleides butterflies live in the rainforests of South America, and can be found in Mexico and Central America.

The larvae of Morpho peleides butterflies are occasional cannibals. These caterpillars are red-brown with patches of bright green.

Morpho peleides butterflies stick together in groups to deter their predators, a form of mobbing behavior.[citation needed]

Photographs[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Young, A. M., and A. Muyshondt (1973). The biology of Morpho peleides in Central America. Caribbean Journal of Science 13: 1–49.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Common Morpho
  2. ^ Stiling, P.D. (1986). Butterflies and other insects of the Caribbean. New York:Macmillan Caribbean. p.52.
  3. ^ peleides, Lepindex
  4. ^ Lamas, Gerardo (2004). Atlas of Neotropical Lepidoptera; Checklist: Part 4A; Hesperioidea - Papilionoidea.
  5. ^ Peleides helenor at funet.fi
  • Smart, Paul (1976). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Butterfly World in Color. London, Salamander:Encyclopedie des papillons. Lausanne, Elsevier Sequoia (French language edition) ISBN 9780948427046 ISBN 0600313816 page 237 fig. 7 (Colombia).
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