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Papilio memnon

Papilio memnon (*)

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Cladus: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Cladus: Holozoa
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Protostomia
Cladus: Ecdysozoa
Cladus: Panarthropoda
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Hexapoda
Classis: Insecta
Cladus: Dicondylia
Subclassis: Pterygota
Cladus: Metapterygota
Infraclassis: Neoptera
Cladus: Eumetabola
Cladus: Endopterygota
Superordo: Panorpida
Cladus: Amphiesmenoptera
Ordo: Lepidoptera
Subordo: Glossata
Cladus: Coelolepida
Cladus: Myoglossata
Cladus: Neolepidoptera
Infraordo: Heteroneura
Cladus: Eulepidoptera
Cladus: Ditrysia
Cladus: Apoditrysia
Cladus: Obtectomera
Superfamilia: Papilionoidea

Familia: Papilionidae
Subfamilia: Papilioninae
Tribus: Papilionini
Genus: Papilio
Subgenus: Papilio (Menelaides)
Species: Papilio memnon
P. m. agenor – P. m. anceus – P. m. babimemnon – P. m. bunguranomemnon – P. m. caeruleus – P. (M.) m. christanae – P. m. clathratus – P. m. eos – P. m. heronus – P. m. kalaomemnon – P. m. lowii – P. m. memnon – P. m. merapu – P. m. oceani – P. m. perlucidus – P. m. pryeri – P. m. subclathratus – P. m. thunbergi

Papilio memnon Linnaeus, 1758.

Type locality: "Asia".

Holotype: BMNH

Papilio angustus Chou , Yuan & Wang, 2000
Papilio memnon yunnanensis (form) Chou , Yuan & Wang, 2000
see also Savela Funet.


Linnaeus, C. 1758. Systema Naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Editio Decima, Reformata. Tomus I. Holmiæ (Stockholm): impensis direct. Laurentii Salvii. 824 pp. DOI: 10.5962/bhl.title.542 BHL p. 460 BHL Reference page.
Chou, I., Yuan, F. & Wang, Y.L. 2000: New Species, New Subspecies, and New Record of Butterflies (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae) from China (II). Entomotaxonomia, 22(4): 266–274. Reference page.
Hachitani, Y. 1989: A new subspecies of Papilio memnon L. from Bunguran Island (Natuna Besar), Indonesia. Futao 1: 2–3. Reference page.
Hachitani, Y., 1991: Note on Papilio memnon L. from Kangean Islands, Indonesia. Futao 8: 1–9.
Hachitani, Y. 1993: A new subspecies of Papilio memnon L.from Babi Island, Indonesia. Futao 12: 1–5. Reference page.
Manguin, R. 1996. Nouvelle sous-espèce chez Papilio memnon Linné 1758 de l'ile Bélitung d'Indonésie (Lépidoptera, Papilionidae) Lambillionea 96 (2): 324–327. Reference page.

Vernacular names
日本語: ナガサキアゲハ
中文: 美鳳蝶

Papilio memnon, the great Mormon, is a large butterfly native to southern Asia that belongs to the swallowtail family. It is widely distributed and has thirteen subspecies. The female is polymorphic and with mimetic forms.


Its range includes north-eastern India (including Sikkim, Assam and Nagaland), Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nicobar Islands, Andaman Islands (stragglers only), western, southern and eastern China (including Hainan), Taiwan, southern Japan including Ryukyu Islands, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Kampuchea, Malaysia and Indonesia (Sumatra, Mentawai Islands, Nias, Batu, Simeulue, Bangka, Java, Kalimantan and the Lesser Sunda Islands).

This species is common and not threatened. The cultivation of citrus all over Southern Asia provides an abundance of food plants.

Description and polymorphy

The butterfly is large with a 120 to 150 millimetres (4.7 to 5.9 in) span. It has four male and many female forms, the females being highly polymorphic and many of them being mimics of unpalatable butterflies. This species has been studied extensively for understanding the genetic basis for polymorphy and Batesian mimicry. As many as twenty-six female forms are reported.[1][2][3]
Typical form agenor

Male. Tailless, above deep blue to black. It may or may not have red streak on the forewing at the base of the cell.
Female. Tailless. Upperside forewing ground colour sepia, streaked with greyish white. The basal third part of the cell is red and is touched outwardly with white. Upper hindwing is blue black. It has five to seven yellow or white discal patches.

Female form butlerianus

Tailless. Resembles the typical male. Both wings are dark sepia. The forewing has a white area on the inner margin. The hindwing is scaled with blue.

Female form alcanor

Tailed. The sides of the abdomen are yellow.
Upperside forewing greyish brown with veins and streaks between them black. The cell is red at the base. There is a velvety black patch at the bases of veins 1 and 2 of the upperside forewing.
Upperside hindwing is black with part of the cell white. There are white streaks around it. The tornus is red with a large black spot. There is a row of red terminal spots between the vein.

Male and female form polymnestoroides

Male. Upperside hindwing and forewing have short blue discal stripes.
Female. The upperside forewing is sepia with pale grey streaks amongst the veins. The base of the cell is red. The upperside hindwing is velvety brown with a blue discal area and has black spots, as in the case of the blue Mormon (P. polymnestor), which it mimics.


This species flies up to 2,100 metres (6,900 ft) in the Himalayas, but is most common at low elevations.

This butterfly is found in forest clearings. It is very common and is also seen amongst human habitation. It visits flowers of Poinsettia, Jasminum, Lantana, Canna and Salvia. It usually flies 2 to 4 metres (6 ft 7 in to 13 ft 1 in) above the ground. The butterfly is known to mud-puddle. The males are much more common than females. The female forms butlerianus and alcanor are especially uncommon.

Life cycle

The larva resembles that of the common Mormon (P. polytes), being green with whitish markings. It is heavily parasitised.

See also

List of butterflies of India (Papilionidae)


C. A. Clarke, P. M. Sheppard & I. W. B. Thornton (1968). "The genetics of the mimetic butterfly Papilio memnon L." Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. 254 (791): 37–89. Bibcode:1968RSPTB.254...37C. doi:10.1098/rstb.1968.0013. JSTOR 2416804.
C. A. Clarke & P. M. Sheppard (1971). "Further studies on the genetics of the mimetic butterfly Papilio memnon L." Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. 263 (847): 35–70. Bibcode:1971RSPTB.263...35C. doi:10.1098/rstb.1971.0109. JSTOR 2417186.

C. A. Clarke & P. M. Sheppard (1973). "The genetics of four new forms of the mimetic butterfly Papilio memnon L.". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 184 (1074): 1–14. Bibcode:1973RSPSB.184....1C. doi:10.1098/rspb.1973.0027. JSTOR 76137. S2CID 86397695.

Further reading

Collins, N. Mark; Morris, Michael G. (1985). Threatened Swallowtail Butterflies of the World: The IUCN Red Data Book. Gland & Cambridge: IUCN. ISBN 978-2-88032-603-6 – via Biodiversity Heritage Library.
Evans, W.H. (1932). The Identification of Indian Butterflies (2nd ed.). Mumbai, India: Bombay Natural History Society.
Haribal, Meena (1992). The Butterflies of Sikkim Himalaya and Their Natural History. Gangtok, Sikkim, India: Sikkim Nature Conservation Foundation.
Wynter-Blyth, Mark Alexander (1957). Butterflies of the Indian Region. Bombay, India: Bombay Natural History Society. ISBN 978-8170192329.
Leech, John Henry (1892–94). Butterflies from China, Japan, and Corea. London: R.H. Porter.

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