A Social Parasite: Panambi chopi

Aah the beautiful butterfly... wait... what?! Discover the devious deeds that this butterfly undertakes to complete its curious life cycle.

Published on 14th April 2021

Screenshot of animation

Panambi chopi, aka Aricoris arenarum, is a butterfly known as a 'cuckoo' butterfly because its young are raised by another species, just like many cuckoo birds who lay their eggs among other birds.

The Linnean Society is proud to present a new animation, hosted on YouTube, which illustrates the curious life cycle of Panambi chopi in the midst of honeydew-producing hemipterans and Camponotus ants.

The free-loading butterfly uses several different methods to integrate successfully into ant societies while it grows into adulthood.

First, the female butterfly lays its eggs close to hemipterans and a particular species of ant, which already have a special symbiotic relationship. When the caterpillars hatch, they feed on honeydew from the hemipterans, as well as encouraging the ants to provide regurgitations by touching the mouth parts of the ant in a way that mimics the ant's larva.

At some point they integrate further with the ants and eventually they are ready to form their chrysalis and emerge a butterfly, leaving their ant adopters behind.

The video is based on research published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society in December 2020, 'The first known riodinid ‘cuckoo’ butterfly reveals deep-time convergence and parallelism in ant social parasites', with authors Lucas A Kaminski, Luis Volkmann, Curtis J Callaghan, Philip J DeVries and Roger Vila.

The Linnean Society of London publishes three peer-reviewed scientific journals in biology, botany and zoology, which cover original scientific papers and studies, and are published on the Society's behalf by Oxford University Press (OUP). Access to the full-text of journal articles is available through library subscriptions worldwide, and to individual subscribers and Society members.

This video joins our growing collection animated journal papers. Discover more here.

Blog written by Joe Burton, Education & Public Engagement Manager
Video produced by Ross Ziegelmeier, Multimedia Content Producer