Small Leopard - Phalanta alcippe ceylonica, Manders

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Male Small Leopard 'mud-sipping' on perfectly dry soil

Male Small Leopard 'mud-sipping' on rock

Male Small Leopard

A small Nymphalid with a wingspan 35-45 mm. The upperside both wings is a bright tawny orange. The forewing apex is black and it extends some distance along the outer margin of the forewing as a narrower band. The hind wing has a series of black spots towards the outer margin with a band above and below it. The brilliant purplish iridescence on the upperside of both wings of this butterfly is unmistakable. In the female, the iridescence is intense but scattered unevenly, while in the male, it is less intense but more evenly spread.

Similar species
Common Leopard - It is a butterfly with uniformly distributed black spots above. It lacks the black bands on the forewing apex and the purple iridescence.

Status, distribution and habitat
It is a rare and local butterfly found in the Knuckles range and surrounding forests. Although it has been recorded from the wet zone on a few occasions, its home base is in the Uva province in the south-east between 2000 to 3000 feet elevation. The flight season is mainly from March to May though it may be occasionally seen at other times of the year.

This is strictly a forest species and is encountered along gravel roads or foot paths through the forest. It is gregarious and its flight is similar to that of the Common Leopard, though slightly slower. It frequently settles on the ground, a small tree, or tall shrub during its search for mates and food. Here, it rhythmically moves its wings up and down, similar to the Common Leopard but much slower. It visits flowers of Lantana readily. The males mud-sip, although at times on perfectly dry soil, like the one in the image. While mud-sipping, the wings are repeatedly opened and closed, not with the smooth motion of most butterflies, but in a graduated series of movements. It has the curious habit of maintaining this wing motion while walking around in search of a suitable spot to mud-sip.

Early stages
Unknown. The larva has been recorded as feeding on Alsodeia zeylanica in India.

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