Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Leaf That Flies Away

By Bruce G. Marcot, Ecology Picture of the Week:

Here is an example of near-perfect cryptic coloration. This is a Common Evening Brown butterfly camouflaged to blend amazing well into the dead leaves on the forest floor.

I spotted this insect only as it flew out from underfoot as I carefully made my way through the remote dense jungle undergrowth in Nokrek National Park in northeast India. I was watching more for cobras, kraits, and other venomous friends, than I was for butterflies. It flushed underfoot, and I followed it for its short bouncy flight several times before I could creep close enough for photos. It flew more like a skipper (a tiny butterfly), keeping close to the ground, and when alighting on the dead leaves would fold its wings and remain motionless, virtually vanishing perfectly among the forest floor debris.

Common Evening Browns are, well, fairly common throughout India, and are active mostly in crepuscular periods (dawn and dusk) although I saw several active during mid-day on the dark jungle forest floor. Common Evening Browns prefer overripe fruits and even tree sap, although their "green horned" or "two-horned" caterpillar stage prefers rice and other grasses and can become an agricultural pest.

--Bruce G. Marcot



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