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Family PAPILIONIDAE Latreille, 1802



Papilionidae are characterised by adults of both sexes having all legs functional, an epiphysis present, tarsal claws usually simple, head with bases of antennae close together, fore wing with some R branches forked, larva with an osmeterium, pupa with cremaster and central girdle. They are generally known as swallowtail butterflies and are mostly large and showy, often brightly coloured. Several Australian species have long tails extending from the hind wing. The well-known birdwing butterflies belong in this family. The Australian papilionid species are all relatively easily distinguished.

Several classifications of the Papilionidae have been published in recent decades and there now appear to be some stability in the higher classification, with three subfamilies currently recognised (Ackery, de Jong & Vane-Wright 1998; Vane-Wright 2003; Nazari et al. 2007; Simonsen et al. 2010). Only members of the Papilioninae occur in Australia, the Parnassiinae and monotypic Baroniinae both being restricted to the Northern Hemisphere. However, phylogenetic relationships among these three subfamilies, and tribes within the largest subfamily Papilioninae, have been contradictory (Hancock 1983; J.S. Miller 1987; Tyler, Brown & Wilson 1994; Parsons 1996a,b; de Jong, Vane-Wright & Ackery 1996; Ackery et al. 1999; Wahlberg, Braby et al. 2005; Nazari et al. 2007). Recently, Simonsen et al. (2010) published a major study in which data from morphological characters and molecular evidence (seven genes) were combined in an attempt to reconstruct the phylogeny more accurately. In that classification, four tribes were recognised within the monophyletic Papilioninae, with the following topology: Leptocircini + (Teinopalpini + (Papilionini + Troidini)). Only the Leptocircini, Papilionini and Troidini occur in Australia (Braby 2010).

There are 21 species of Papilioninae in Australia and its offshore islands (Braby 2010). Only three species are endemic, Ornithoptera richmondia (Gray), Protographium leosthenes (Doubleday) and Papilio (Eleppone) anactus W.S. Macleay. The species Cressida cressida (F.) also occurs in southern Papua New Guinea and some of the Lesser Sunda islands. Most of the remaining species occur in New Guinea and the neighbouring islands and most of the species of Graphium Scopoli occur widely in the Oriental Region.

The Leptocircini centred on the genus Graphium (in Australia, Graphium and Protographium) have larvae which feed largely on Lauraceae and Annonaceae, while the Papilionini centred on Papilio L. feeds on Rutaceae (and overseas on Apiaceae) with P. demoleus L. in Australia and New Guinea also on Fabaceae. P. demoleus feeds only on members of the genera Cullen and Psoralea. These genera contain the alkaloid psoralin which also occurs in Apiaceae. A few of the rutaceous feeders can be minor pests of Citrus. Troidine larvae (in Australia, Cressida, Atrophaneura Reakirt and Ornithoptera) feed on plants of the family Aristolochiaceae.

Most papilionid species in Australia inhabit the moist northern coastal areas. Only P. anactus and P. demoleus occur in the arid zone, but it may be that P. anactus does so only as a consequence of the cultivation of Citrus. It was first recorded from South Australia in 1915 so it has certainly increased its range with cultivated Citrus.

Adults fly strongly and feed frequently at flowers. They are well known for their habit of fluttering over a flower while feeding, grasping the flower with their legs, but not settling. Larvae feed openly on the foliage, usually resting exposed on a leaf. Pupae are found exposed, but in sheltered places.


General References

Ackery, P.R., de Jong, R. & Vane-Wright, R.I. 1998. The Butterflies: Hedyloidea, Hesperioidea and Papilionoidea. pp. 263-300 in Kristensen, N.P. (ed.). Lepidoptera, Moths and Butterflies. Volume 1: Evolution, Systematics, and Biogeography. Handbuch der Zoologie/Handbook of Zoology. Volume IV Arthropoda: Insecta Part 35. i-x. Berlin : Walter de Gruyter Vol. 1(35).

Braby, M.F. 2000. The Butterflies of Australia, their identification, biology and distribution. Melbourne : CSIRO Publishing xx 976 pp.

Braby, M.F. 2010. The merging of taxonomy and conservation biology: a synthesis of Australian butterfly systematics (Lepidoptera: Hesperioidea and Papilionoidea). Zootaxa 2707: 1-76 [Date published 3 Dec 2010]

Braby, M.F., Trueman, J.W.H. & Eastwood, R.G. 2005. When and where did troidine butterflies (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae) evolve? Phylogenetic and biogeographic evidence suggests an origin in remnant Gondwanan in the Late Cretaceous. Invertebrate Systematics 19: 113–143

Brown, K.S., Klitzke, C.F., Berlingeri, C. & dos Santos, P.E.R. 1995. Neotropical swallowtails: Chemistry of foodplant relationships, population ecology and biosystematics. pp. 405-445 in Scriber, J.M., Tsubaki, Y. & Lederhouse, R.C. (eds). Swallowtail Butterflies. Their Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Gainesville : Scientific Publishers vii 459 pp.

Hancock, D.L. 1983. Classification of the Papilionidae (Lepidoptera): a phylogenetic approach. Smithersia 2: 1-48

Hancock, D.L. & Orr, A.G. 1997. Ornithoptera euphorion (Gray) (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae): species or subspecies? Australian Entomologist 24: 165-168

Haugum, J. & Low, A.M. 1979. A Monograph of the Birdwing Butterflies. The systematics of Ornithoptera, Troides and related genera. Ornithoptera (Ornithoptera). Klampenborg, Denmark : Scandinavian Science Press Vol. 1(2) 85-192 pp. [Date published 1-Apr-79]

Holloway, J.D. & Nielsen, E.S. 1998. Biogeography of the Lepidoptera. pp. 423-462 in Kristensen, N.P. (ed.). Lepidoptera, Moths and Butterflies. Volume 1: Evolution, Systematics, and Biogeography. Handbuch der Zoologie/Handbook of Zoology. Volume IV Arthropoda: Insecta Part 35. i-x. Berlin : Walter de Gruyter Vol. 1(35).

Jong, R. de, Vane-Wright, R.I. & Ackery, P.R. 1996. The higher classification of the butterflies (Lepidoptera): problems and prospects. Entomologica Scandinavica 27: 65-101

Miller, J.S. 1987. Phylogenetic studies in the Papilioninae (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 186: 368-512

Nazari, V., Zakharov, E. & Sperling, F.A.H. 2007. Phylogeny, historical biogeography, and taxonomic ranking of Parnassinae (Lepidoptera, Papilionidae) based on morphology and seven genes. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 42: 131–156

Parsons, M.J. 1996. A phylogenetic reappraisal of the birdwing genus Ornithoptera (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae: Troidini) and a new theory of its evolution in relation to Gondwanan vicariance biogeography. Journal of Natural History 30: 1707-1736

Parsons, M.J. 1996. Gondwanan evolution of the troidine swallowtails (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae): cladistic reappraisals using mainly immature stage characters, with focus on the birdwings Ornithoptera Boisduval. Bulletin of the Kitakyushu Museum of Natural History 15: 43-118

Scriber, J.M., Tsubaki, Y. & Lederhouse, R.C. (eds) 1995. Swallowtail Butterflies. Their Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Gainesville : Scientific Publishers vii 459 pp.

Simonsen, T.J., Zakharov, E.V., Djernaes, M., Cotton, A.M., Vane-Wright, R.I. & Sperling, F.A.H. 2010. Phylogenetics and divergence times of Papilioninae (Lepidoptera) with special reference to the enigmatic genera Teinopalpus and Meandrusa. Cladistics 26: 1–25

Tyler, H.A., Brown, K.S., Jr. & Wilson, K.H. 1994. Swallowtail Butterflies of the Americas. A Study in Biological Dynamics, Ecological Diversity, Biosystematics, and Conservation. Gainesville : Scientific Publishers pp. 376.

Vane-Wright, R.I. 2003. Evidence and identity in butterfly systematics. pp. 477–513 in Boggs, C.L., Watt, W.B. & Ehrlich, P.R. Butterflies: Ecology and Evolution Taking Flight. Chicago : University of Chicago Press.

Wahlberg, N., Braby, M.F., Brower, A.V.Z., de Jong, R., Lee, M.-M., Nylin, S., Pierce, N.E., Sperling, F.A.H., Vila, R., Warren, A.D. & Zakharov, E. 2005. Synergistic effects of combining morphological and molecular data in resolving the phylogeny of butterflies and skippers. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 272: 1577–1586


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
02-Nov-2017 PAPILIONIDAE Latreille, 1802 13-Feb-2018 MODIFIED
05-Mar-2013 05-Mar-2013 MODIFIED
30-Mar-2012 30-Mar-2012 MODIFIED
28-Mar-2012 28-Mar-2012 MODIFIED
28-Mar-2012 05-Apr-2011 MODIFIED
12-Feb-2010 (import)