Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies)
Family: Nymphalidae (Brush-footed Butterflies)

Genus/species: Heliconius sara

Sara Longwing (top wing)Heliconius sara

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Upper wing surface (dorsal) is black with large patch of metallic blue framed by two white bands. Underside (ventral) is brown-black with faded white bars above and small red spots near the body.

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Widespread throughout Central America and the tropics of South America, including the Amazon Basin. Usually found  flying  slowly in the middlestory of rainforests.

REPRODUCTION: Pupal maters. Males don’t even wait until the female emerges from the pupa. Instead they physically break open her pupa and copulate as soon as her genitalia are accessible.  Larvae of sara longwing butterflies avoid harm from cyanogenic leaves by metabolizing cyanogenic glycosides enzymatically.

Sara Longwing Heliconius sara 3142858049_b1047eaf55_o

LONGEVITY: Adult life span: 2–3 months.

REMARKS: Passion flowers contain toxic compounds to which caterpillars are immune; like monarchs, the caterpillars concentrate the toxin in their tissues and pass it along to the adult during metamorphosis. Research suggests that adult Heliconian butterflies may be able to synthesize their own toxins with the amino acids they absorb through the protein-rich pollen they feed on.


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