Danaus chrysippus L., 1758
Common names : Plain Tiger, Common Tiger, Lesser Wanderer, African Queen, African Monarch [En], Petit monarque [Fr], Kleine Monarch, Afrikanischer Monarch, Gewöhnlicher Tiger [De], Kleine monarchvlinder [Nl], Sultan [Tu].
Samos ● Greece
Description: The Plain Tiger is a medium-sized butterfly with a wingspan of about 7–8 cm. The fore-wing and hind-wing upperside ground colour in both sexes is light or ange-brown to chestnut brown. The fore-wing upperside apex is dark brown, enclosing transverse white spots. The body is black with many white spots. The wings are tawny the upper side being brighter and richer than the underside.
The male Plain Tiger is smaller than the female, but more brightly colored. In addition, male danaines have a number of secondary sexual characteristics. In the case of the Plain Tiger, these are:
- The male has a pouch on the hindwing. This spot is white with a thick black border and bulges slightly. It is a cluster of specialised scent scales used to attract females.
- The males possess two brush-like organs which can be pushed out of the tip of the abdomen.
Several subspecies and local forms have been described. In Asia, Mediterranean region, northern tropical Africa, it is Danaus chrysippus chrysippus.
Biology: As usual for diurnal butterflies, this species rests with its wings closed. When basking it sits close to the ground and spreads its wings with its back to the sun so that the wings are fully exposed to the sun's rays.
Defense against predators: The Plain Tiger is protected from attacks due to the unpalatable alkaloids ingested during the larval stages. The butterfly therefore flies slowly and leisurely, generally close to the ground and in a straight line. This gives a would-be predator ample time to recognise and avoid attacking it. Inexperienced predators will try attacking it, but will learn soon enough to avoid this butterfly as the alkaloids in its body cause vomiting.
The butterfly also has a tough, leathery skin to survive such occasional attacks. When attacked it fakes death and oozes nauseating liquid which makes it smell and taste terrible. This encourages the predator to release the butterfly quickly. The Plain Tiger thus has the ability to recover "miraculously" from predator attacks that would kill most other butterflies.
Distribution: Wide-ranging migrant species. It is distributed from Europe (Canary Islands, coastal Mediterranean regions, Turkey) to Saudi Arabia, tropical Asia, Africa and even Australia and New Zealand. It is a common species in tropical Asia, including India.
Tolman T., Lewington R., 2009. Collins Butterfly Guide: The Most Complete Field Guide to the Butterflies of Britain and Europe, Harper Collins.