The World of Birdwing Butterflies

 

STRAATMANA (AETHEOPTERA) ALEXANDRAE

IUCN conservation status category: ENDANGERED.

The first specimen of Straatmana alexandrae - a female - was captured in 1906 by the naturalist A. S. Meek on one of his collecting trips for the Tring Museum. The specimen was collected at Biag, by the Kumusi River, at 1,600 m elevation.

The first male was collected the following year.

S. alexandrae is the world's largest butterfly, the females reaching a wingspan of up to 26 cm. It occurs in a relatively small area in the south-east of Papua New Guinea.

Rather few specimens are known to have been collected over the years, but the species is still regarded as endangered. In 1951 an eruption destroyed 250 km2 of prime habitat, and the species is today known from only nine 10 km grid squares.

Needless to say, alexandrae is protected by law, but still specimens are occasionally brought out of PNG, mainly to serve international commercial market.

The main threat, nevertheless, comes from destruction of habitat. This is mainly caused by the oil palm industry (see article on 'Queen Alexandra's Birdwing at risk') as well as 'developments' made by the cocoa and rubber plantations. The habitat of alexandrae is found up to an elevation of 800 m.

Mr Toeante (in litt.) suggested that unconfirmed reports about alexandrae having been found in Irian Jaya should be regarded with scepticism.

S. alexandrae usually flies 20-30 m above the ground. The eggs, totalling 25-27 only, are being laid at the top of 40 metres tall trees. The eggs themselves are as impressive as the imago, measuring 4 mm in diameter. The larvae reach 11 x 3 cm and the pupae 9 x 3 cm. The adult has a life span of 3 months.

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S.alexandrae

Auctor: Rothschild, 1907
Distribution: Kumusi River, Popondetta Plain, PNG
Etymology: Named in honour of Queen Alexandra.
Notes:
Described forms:
mf.alexandrae Rothschild, 1907
mf.atavis Rumbucher, 1973
  mf. devis Schäffler, 2001



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