Papilionidae of Pakistan


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Since dawn of time, butterflies have been regarded as symbols of beauty and grace. Their marvellous colours, shapes and graceful flight give pleasure to everyone. Development due to modern civilization is destroying natural habitats at an alarming rate and the destruction of this habitat is causing extinction of many species. Most swallowtails are forest dwellers and that is why many of these butterflies are threatened by destruction of forests. Indian subcontinent is a land diverse in physical landscape, climatic conditions range from moist environs to tropical rain forests and to the sun-baked deserts of Sind and Baluchistan to the cold dry beaches of the Northern areas (Ferguson, 1997). Pakistan represents parts of at least two zoogeographical zones, Palaeartic and Oriental (Roberts, 1977) and has a rich and varied butterfly fauna, affinitive to these regions. More than fifty percent of Pakistan is mountainous, particularly its North and Northwestern region, which possess the most fascinating mountains. However it is Northern Pakistan which has most unique geographical features in the World. The mighty ranges of Karakaram, the Himalayas and the Hindukush are parts of North Pakistan. These ranges have the most rare species of flora and fauna, most of these biota are endemic.

Nature has blessed Pakistan with unique landscape, the high mountains, Plateau, Plains, deserts and sunny beaches. High mountains dominate its north, low mountains (Suleman, Pub, Kirthar and Mekran) extend from north to southwest. These low ranges dominate the plains and deserts to the East and beaches of the Arabian sea to the south. Due to topographical and climatic variations Pakistan comprises different ecosystems, such as marine, coastal, mangrove, deltaic, riverine wetland, dry desert, tropical thorn, mountain and cold desert. Despite their great aesthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational and scientific value there is little information about the butterfly fauna of Pakistan. Attempt has been made to compile the identified species of family Papilionidae from Pakistan.

The family Papilionidae contains some of the biggest and most beautiful butterflies of the world noted for their magnificent colour, elegant shapes and strong flying. This family is widely studied and well known of all the butterfly families. Most species occur in the tropics, but some are also found in temperate climate. Larvae of genera Pachliopta and Atrophenura commonly feed on plants of family Aristolochiaceae; genus Papilio on Anonaceae, Lauraceae, Rutaceae, Umblliferae; Graphium on Anonaceae, Lauraceae; Hypermnestra on Zygophyllaceae and Parnassius on Zygophyllaceae, Saxifragaceae, Aristolochiaceae, Fumariaceae and Crassulaceae. Papilio spp. are of economic importance as their larvae destroy young citrus plants and also damage the new leaves of old trees.

The family is reported to include mountains more than 600 species of diurnal, heliophilous (sun loving) butterflies of medium to large size (Stanek,1977). However, Shield (1989), Heppner (1991), Scriber (1995) reported nearly 570 species, Collins and Morris (1985) 573, and Holloway et al., (1987) 550 species from the world. According to Gay, et al., 1992; Novak, and Severa, 1995 bout 700 spp. of Papilionidae have been identified worldwide. Gays, et al., 1992 also reported that India is represented by 107 species. Bingham (1905), Evans (1932), Talbot (1939) and Wynter-Blyth (1957) did comprehensive studies, on the butterfly fauna of Indian region. Varshney (1993) reported synonymy, common name, type species, food plant and geographical distribution of Papilionid butterflies of Southeast Asian countries including Pakistan (Fig.1).

In previous literature of Pakistan, 2 species of Papilionidae have been reported from Karachi and its neighborhood (Swinhoe, 1887), 6 from Chitral (Leslie and Evans, 1903), 3 from Lahore (Rhe-Philipe, 1917), 4 from Lahore (Puri, 1931; Ahsan & Iqbal, 1975), 3 from Sind (Menesse, 1950), 4 from Sind, Baluchistan and NWFP (Malik, 1970 & 1973), 14 from Pakistan (Collins and Morris, 1985), 4 from Islamabad & Muree (Hasan, 1994) while Mirza (1998) showed colour plates of 4 Papilionids species from Pakistan. In the present studies all the reported species have been compiled together and additional species incorporated.

The swallowtails (Papilionidae) of Pakistan, belong to two subfamilies i.e Parnassiinae and Papilionidae. The former contains one tribe with 2 genera and the latter with three tribes and five genera .

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