Anartia fatima, the banded peacock, is a butterfly in the family Nymphalidae. It is commonly found in south Texas, Mexico, and Central America but mostly studied in Costa Rica. This butterfly prefers subtropical climates and areas in which there is a lot of moisture, such as near rivers. It spends much of its time in second-growth areas, meaning woodland areas that have regrown after harvest. Its larvae feed on plants in the family Acanthaceae, while adults primarily feed on flower nectar from Acanthus species. The species is diurnal, meaning that they are active in the daytime and inactive at night. These butterflies face interspecies competition for nectar with other butterflies and must also compete with hummingbirds, who will chase them away. Parental care in this species is non-existent. The eggs are laid in low-lying host plant leaves and flower bracts. Several hundred are laid by a single female within the span of a few days, with only a small percentage of the eggs surviving to adulthood. Eggs take five days to hatch and the larvae complete six instar phases before pupation. After pupation is complete, adults emerge and fly off within 1–2 hours. This butterfly has no protective coloration and is not toxic to predators. It is the victim of predation by many bird, lizard, frog, and arthropod species. However, this butterfly is so ubiquitous that losses from predation do not cause endangerment of the species.
Although Anartia fatima has been recorded once as far north as Kansas, its range generally begins in southern Texas and continues south through Mexico and all of Central America and Panama. It is quite ubiquitous throughout its range. After this point, A. fatima is no longer found and a closely related species, Anartia amathea, becomes prevalent.
Male defense of places likely to attract females
The banded peacock is a diurnal species, meaning that it is active during the day. From late morning until early afternoon, males perch on low vegetation and chase other male butterflies away from their territory. The males fly in a slow zig-zag pattern between 0.3 and 0.6 meters above ground in order to patrol the area around their territory and look for females. In this territory, the male will search for mates and receive most of his nutritional requirements from flowers.
Host plant preferences
In South Texas, there is a preference for Ruellia, but continuing southward any other Acanthaceae is sufficient. Larvae will feed on host plant vegetation.
The adults feed on flower nectar from Acanthus and other flower nectars. Males arise earlier than the females to begin their search for food and to prepare in their search for female mates. Females do not venture out until there is more sunlight.
In the process of feeding on the flower nectar from Acanthus and other plants, the butterflies would subsequently play a role in pollination of these plants by picking up and depositing pollen as they moved from flower to flower.
Single eggs are laid on leaf surfaces or between flower bracts on host plants, such as Blechum. Females have been observed to oviposit on the leaf surfaces of low-growing Hydrocotyle and Spermacoce assurgens growing near small patches of Blechum. Ovipositions lasted for 5–10 seconds each. Each time a female landed on a host plant, she would quickly oviposit and take off, and then subsequently land again on the next plant she encountered. Females have high fecundity and can lay several hundred eggs over the course of a few days.
Sets of adults seek shelter, feed, and mate within the same areas. However, no forms of social grouping are observed. These butterflies exhibit roosting behavior on the underside of leaves in late evening. This is done in an upside-down manner while closing their wings. It is thought that the purpose of this behavior is to remain hidden from predators.
The spherical eggs are approximately 1 mm in diameter. They rest for approximately 5 days before they hatch.
The larvae go through 6 instar phases, each lasting different periods of time and causing different changes in physiology. The stages last approximately 3.25, 3.06, 2.81, 3.13, 3.31, and 6.88 days respectively.
After these stages are complete, the larvae nearing pupation will wander for about one day and then prepare a silk pupation platform several centimeters above the ground on the bottom of a leaf or twig. The pupal period will last between 6 and 8 days, after which the organism has transitioned to the adult butterfly phase.
Adult butterflies will emerge in the morning and will be ready to fly within one to two hours. The adults tend to have dorsal colored wings that are dark brown with four or five red spots of varying sizes located on the basal portion of the hindwing. Polymorphism can be seen in the adults as one is white-banded and another is yellow-banded. Both of these morphs have a median band running across both the forewing and hindwing with seven small spots near the apex and post median area of the forewing.
Banded peacock butterflies have a relatively short lifespan and make flights north to South Texas at all times of the year. There are some years, however, when colonies do not make the journey north. In the coming of the dry season, this species was observed to exhibit a southeasterly migration along the Pacific coast from Guanacaste to Monteverde, Costa Rica.
The banded peacock is often the subject of predation by birds, lizards, frogs, spiders and other insects. This butterfly is often found with bird and lizard beak marks, resulting from close calls with their predators.
Protective coloration and behavior
Within the family Lepidoptera, the banded peacock is one of the most palatable species to predators and is often used as a control food item in experiments studying warning coloration and mimicry. Although vertical stripes are usually a sign of chemically protected species, the banded peacock does not seem to gain any protection from its striped coloration.
Genetics of color patterns
This species has two polymorphic forms, one which is white-banded and another that is yellow-banded. Both of these morphs have a median band running across both the forewing and hindwing with seven small spots near the apex and post median area of the forewing. There is no distinction between males and females besides for the fact that the females tend to have more diffusely-edged pattern elements. The genetic basis of the polymorphism is still unknown; however, studies have shown a difference in mate selection in different seasons. In the dry season, it was shown that the white-banded females attracted both white and yellow males about twice as often as yellow-banded females attracted these males. In the wet season, mate selection returned to 1:1 proportions.
When a male in the course of his flight activity sees a female banded peacock butterfly, he immediately dives down to the other butterfly. If the female butterfly flies up, the male will chase after her for some distance. If the female does not fly up, the male will fly very close to the female and flutter his wings above her for about thirty seconds. This is known as the approach behavior of the male. If the female is a virgin, she will close her wings over her thorax and expose her abdomen in preparation for a lateral approach by the male. The male will then position his abdomen for copulation by curving it around his head and then walk up to the female in parallel orientation to initiate coupling.
The banded peacock is in direct competition for flower nectar with other butterfly species as well as with the hummingbird. The hummingbird is observed to be territorial over its foraging area and will chase away and pursue intruders, such as the banded peacock butterfly. As a result, the banded peacock butterfly is in direct competition with this species and it is a relationship in which the butterfly can only evade and cannot fight back to continue foraging in the area.
This butterfly is quite ubiquitous in the regions in which in inhabits. It suffers little consequence from predation and human factors. Its migratory patterns are not threatened by any causes.