• Saloni Rose

I just saw a Palm King Butterfly!!

Updated: Jun 16, 2019

I was walking towards to the Central Dining Hall when my friend pointed me towards this butterfly. I uploaded the photo to Inaturalist and identified it to be the Palm King butterfly (Amathusia phidippus), a member of the family Nymphalidae (tribe Amathusiini). When I checked the distribution of this species, I realized that this was the first record on this species in Peninsular India on Inaturalist (However, it is quite common in Malay Archipelago). I further checked https://www.ifoundbutterflies.org/ for more information about this butterfly and found that there was no species page dedicated for it.

Distribution of the Palm King Butterfly (Source: Inaturalist.org). See the red dot in Kerala? That's my observation

So I dug a little deeper and found several articles that described the sightings (1,2) of the Palm King. Although it was seen in Kerala in late 1800s, it wasn't until 2002 the Palm King seen again. In 2007, Mathew and Pulikkal found the eggs in Thenmala, Kerala and described the life cycle of the butterfly. It is extremely rare and endangered, having a high conservation value (1).

The only other species of the same genus that is found in India is Amathusia andamanensis. It is found in Andaman and Nicobar Islands (the other members of the genus are restricted to Malay Archipelago). A & N islands are located far east of mainland India and have been hypothesized to be formed due to collision of Indo-Burman plates. In fact, they are closer to Myanmar than Peninsular India. It is possible that A. andamanensis separated from a founder group in Malay and diverged into a different species.


1. G. Mathew & U. Pulikkal (2009), Biology of the Palm King Amathusia phidippus, an Extremely Rare and Endangered Butterfly of Peninsular India, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, April 2009 Vol.106 (1), pp 118–120

2. https://www.thehindu.com/lf/2002/07/19/stories/2002071904110200.htm

3. Yang, Mingsheng, and Yalin Zhang. “Phylogenetic utility of ribosomal genes for reconstructing the phylogeny of five Chinese satyrine tribes (Lepidoptera, Nymphalidae).” ZooKeys ,488 105-20. 19 Mar. 2015, doi:10.3897/zookeys.488.9171

4. Kunte, K., S. Sondhi, and P. Roy (Chief Editors). Butterflies of India, v. 2.62. Indian Foundation for Butterflies.