Sunday, February 9, 2014

Birdwing Butterflies prints now available on Deviantart!

Hey ya'll

The prints in my birdwing butterfly set have been really popular on deviantart as postcards or prints. Birdwing butterflies are probably one of my all time favorite of butterflies. Not only do their large size make them a breathtaking sight in any setting - both captive and wild - but their iridescent wings and uniqueness to the Southeast Asian region also give them an exotic touch that is quite unique to the species. 

The Southern Tailed Birdwing (Ornithoptera meridionalis) is the smallest of all the birdwing butterflies. Like the Queen Alexandra's birdwing butterfly (which is the largest butterfly in the world) the species was discovered by Walter Rothschild in Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea. The species is fairly widespread and may be found in several localities in southeast Papua New Guinea and the southern coast of Irian Jaya. Along with the Paradise birdwing (Ornithoptera paradisea) it is the only butterfly of the birdwing family whose wings are tailed.  Like several other species of birdwing butterflies, it is classified as "endangered" in the IUCN red list due to habitat loss in various parts of Papua new Guinea.  

Conservation initiatives that engage local communities have proven to be fairly successful and there are to date several villages in Papua New Guinea which farm the butterfly for conservation and commercial purposes. The specimens are incredibly valuable and may fetch prices as high as US$1000 per pair. Despite its desirability, collecting of the butterfly has little to negligible effect on its population size provided the original habitats are left undisturbed. The butterflies are remarkable in that they have an extremely small amount of wing area in relative to its large and bulky body. Male butterflies have hind wings that are severely reduced, tapering at the end into a pair of filamentous tails which are easily broken. The males of the species are thus rather clumsy and weak fliers and spend most of their day resting on the canopy layer of primary rainforests. The larva of the butterfly feed on the plants of the genus pararistolochia and incorporate its toxins into its defense system during its development and adult life.  

Ornithoptera priamus, or the common green birdwing, is a very widespread species of birdwing butterfly that is found in New Guinea, Moluccas, the Bismarck Archipelago, the Solomon Islands, and Northeast Australia.  Because of its sizeable range, the butterfly is extremely variable and is believed to have evolved multiple subspecies each exhibiting different markings, patterns, coloration, and forms. According to some experts, there are as many as 99 subspecies of Ornithoptera priamus butterflies although others would contend that some of these subspecies are to be treated as independent species altogether.  Most of the subspecies of Ornithoptera priamus feature brown and cream-patterned females and iridescent green males, although several subspecies such as Ornithoptera priamus urvilleanus, and Ornithoptera priamus miokensis have blue wings. Despite being an overall widespread and established species, some subspecies of the butterfly which are endemic to certain parts of the world are threatened by habitat destruction: primarily the clearing of primary forests (which the butterfly needs for its survival) for the palm oil trade. Many other subspecies, such as Ornithoptera aesacus may be seriously endangered in the wild but otherwise fairly commonly bred in captivity. 

Fun fact: the butterfly is named after Priam, the King of Troy during the Trojan War. 

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