The plain tiger enjoys a celebrity status of being the first butterfly in the recorded history. It was depicted in a painting, with its distinct colors and patterns, in the tomb of Nebamun in Egypt, circa 1350 BCE – that’s more than 3300 years before!

oriental plain tiger, male at korlai, maharashtra

It’s a tiger not merely in its stripes and colors. It is a terror to potential predators too! Their bodies contain toxic alkaloids from plants, which they have devoured as a larvae. Birds and predators memorize and associate the unsavoriness of these butterfly species with their patterns and habits, and try to avoid them. This, in turn, is found to have evolutionary consequences in other “edible” butterflies, which ended up mimicing similar colors and patterns in order to escape from the predators.

The image above is of a male oriental plain tiger, and they have a pouch on the hindwing, which has scent scales to attract females! The pouch can be identified as a distinct white spot with a thick black border.

Research shows that the sex ratio of the broods alternate between an excess of females and males, according to the season. That is, there are more females in the brood at the start of the rains when population density increases rapidly, and an excess of males in the driest months, probably due to enhanced survival.

oriental plain tiger, male at korlai, maharashtra

Species: Danaus chrysippus chrysippus, Family: Nymphalidae
Common Name: Oriental Plain Tiger, African Monarch
Date: 17 Mar 2014, 7:30 am
Location: Korlai Fort, Maharashtra


  1. Smith, D. A., Lushai, G. & Allen, J. A. A classification of Danaus butterflies (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) based upon data from morphology and DNA. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 144, 191-212 (2005).
  2. Parkinson, R. The painted tomb-chapel of Nebamun. Egyptian Archaeology (2008).
  3. Smith, D. All-female broods in the polymorphic butterfly Danaus chrysippus and their ecological significance. Heredity 34, 363-371 (1975).

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