World

Scientific expedition in the footsteps of the largest butterfly in Africa

A team of researchers goes to the Central African Republic in the footsteps of “Papilio antimachus”. This butterfly can reach 25 cm wingspan remains a scientific enigma.

Papilio antimachus, this butterfly also known as “big red”remains an entomological mystery. More than 250 years after its discovery, the egg, caterpillar and chrysalis of this butterfly living in the tropical forests of the Congo Basin are still unknown to science.

A team of 14 people, led by the French entomologist Philippe Annoyer, will settle in the canopy of the rainforest of the Central African Republic, to know better “the biggest butterfly of the day of the African continent”. The largest in the world (Tysania agripina) is 3 cm longer and lives in Guyana and Brazil.

Documented for the first time in 1782 by European scientists, it is found in a dozen countries, from Guinea in West Africa to Uganda in the Great Lakes region.

Toxic, we do not know him as a natural predator, except the man who hunts him to sell to tourists. Threatened also by deforestation, Papilio antimachus is currently in danger.

Discover the life cycle of the species and its mode of reproduction will establish a protocol for the protection of its biotope, both fragile and threatened.
“We know very little about this butterfly, to know to better preserve, we will try to observe eggs, the caterpillar and the chrysalis, which are today unknown”explains Philippe Annoyer, the leader of the expedition, which is due to start mid-November 2019 in the Central African Republic.

Despite its orange-red wings, on a brown background, Papilio antimachus is difficult to see because it flies above the treetops of sub-Saharan tropical forests.

Three climbers take part in the expedition because a large part of the observations take place at 50 meters high.
“The idea is to raise this butterfly and reintroduce it, to protect this species as we did in Africa with the elephant”explains the entomologist Philippe Annoyer.

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