Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Flying tiger

Nothing very Chennai specific about this one; this butterfly is known as the Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus) or the Common Tiger through most of Asia; it is also fairly widespread through most of Africa. The Africans, having never seen tigers, call it the African Monarch.

Even though it is quite common - or rather, because it is - the Plain Tiger was the model for one of the oldest artistic representations of a butterfly. That was about 3500 years ago, in Thebes, as part of the detail on a fresco in the tomb of Nebamun (you can see the painting here - click on the image on the bottom left and then click on the man's kilt to magnify). Torben Larsen, a renowned entomologist, writes in his book 'Butterflies of Egypt', "...it is somewhat ironic that the oldest painting of a butterfly should be from Egypt, one of the poorest habitats for butterflies anywhere in the world".

In Chennai, though, this butterfly is quite common; maybe the 3500 year association with humans is the reason why this one in the Adyar Poonga allowed me to get really close to take a picture!

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