Eumaeus atala: Coontie Hairstreak Butterfly

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^ Battered but beautiful

The Atala, Eumaeus atala, is a small colorful butterfly in the family Lycaenidae. It is found in southeastern Florida, the Bahamas, Cuba, the Cayman Islands [probable on other Caribbean islands in archipelago]. Its coloration and habits are unique among butterflies within its range.

The Atala is a great example of aposematic [warning] coloration throughout its life cycle. The brightly colored larva or caterpillar feeds on cycads which contain a toxic secondary plant chemical [“cycasin”] which it retains in its body for life. Birds, lizards, and other animals may attempt to prey on the larva, pupa, and adults, but find them distasteful and learn to avoid these brightly patterned insects. In Florida, the larva [caterpillar] feeds on a native cycad, Zamia pumila, called Coontie, as well as introduced ornamental cycads. Another name for the butterfly is Coontie Hairstreak.

Photo: Florida Museum of Natural History, Butterfly Rainforest, Gainesville, Florida  [20140727]

Source: Wikipedia

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