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Lepidoptera > Papilionoidea > Nymphalidae > Heliconiinae > Acraeini > Acraea

Acraea terpsicore Linnaeus, 1758 – Tawny Coster

Subspecies in India:

No subspecies are listed under this species. There has been long-standing confusion among taxonomists as to whether the correct name for the Tawny Coster is Acraea terpsicore Linnaeus, 1758 or Acraea violae Fabricius, 1775/1793. Several authors had pointed out that they had failed to locate the type of Papilio terpsicore Linnaeus, 1758, and that that name had been erroneously used for several species in Africa and Asia, so terpsicore Linnaeus, 1758 was not defined properly. As a result, these authors had concluded that Papilio violae Fabricius, 1775/1793 was probably the valid name. However, several key papers had clarified this issue, and shown that the type of terpsicore Linnaeus, 1758, collected from the Chennai area (erstwhile Madras) in SE India, existed in the collections of the Linnean Society of London and identified as such (le Doux 1922, 1928; Pierre and Bernaud 1997). Following this, until evidence is provided to the contrary, it appears that Acraea terpsicore Linnaeus, 1758 should be used as a valid name for this species.

Early Stages:
Indian and global distribution:
records (based on images):
Larval Host Plants:

Special Article: The Life Cycle of the Tawny Coster Butterfly – Some Observations
      - by Dr T. P. Alaganantham & Dr Geetha Jaikumar

The Tawny Coster (Acraea terpsicore) is a common butterfly in the estate of the Theosophical Society, Chennai. According to literature, Passiflora is the preferred host plant for this butterfly. In 2010, we observed that female butterflies lay eggs on the underside of leaves of the wild flower Turnera subulata. The caterpillars feed on the leaves and the flowers of this plant. A plant which harboured a number of caterpillars was uprooted and transplanted to a pot, which was then placed indoors and closely monitored. One of the caterpillars pupated successfully and lasted as a pupa for 8 days before emerging as an adult. The adult butterfly was released into the garden after photographing.

Acraea violaeAcraea violae

To our knowledge, Turnera is not mentioned in literature as a host plant for any butterfly. Therefore, we believe our report represents a new larval hostplant record for A terspicore. Passiflora does not occur on the TS estate, whereas Turnera is abundant, suggesting that A. Terspicore can adapt to a novel hostplant when its regular hostplant is lacking.

Acraea violaeAlthough, caterpillars of various growth stages can be seen at any given time, we never found pupae on the plants despite repeated and careful searches. We hypothesized that caterpillars crawl away from the host plant to pupate as is known to happen with some species of caterpillars which travel as much as one kilometer before becoming a pupa. In 2013, we were indeed able to locate many pupae of the butterfly on an unidentified grass away from the host plant. This interesting behaviour of A. terspicore larvae pupating away from their hostplant needs to be investigated in more detail. Our study suggests that there are many interesting discoveries to be made about the natural history of butterflies in India, including previously unreported host plants and local adaptations of butterflies on different hostplants.

Sexual, seasonal & individual variation:
Status, Habitat and Habits:
Le Doux, C. 1922. Acraeen-Studien I (Lep. Rhop.). 1. Die identitat der Acraea violae F. (Indien) und Ac. neobule D.u.H. (Afrika). Dtsch. Entomol. Zeitschript, 1922:297–316.

Le Doux, C. 1928. Acraeen-Studien III. (Lep. Rhop.). 1. Die nomenklatur und der formenkreis von Acraea eponina Cr. Dtsch. Entomol. Zeitschript, 1928:97–115.

Pierre, J., and D. Bernaud. 1997. Acraea terpsicore (Linné), problèmes de nomenclature et données biologiques (Lepidoptera, Nymphalidae). Bull. la Société Entomol. Fr., 102:405–412.

Lepidoptera > Papilionoidea > Nymphalidae > Heliconiinae > Acraeini > Acraea

Cite this page along with its URL as:
Saji, K., Y. Gurjar,  P. Kale,  T. P. Alaganantham, G. Jaikumar, and K. Kunte. 2017. Acraea terpsicore Linnaeus, 1758 – Tawny Coster. Kunte, K., P. Roy, S. Kalesh and U. Kodandaramaiah (eds.). Butterflies of India, v. 2.24. Indian Foundation for Butterflies.
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