Species: Queen Alexandra’s birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae)
Status: Endangered (EN)
Interesting Fact: Queen Alexandra’s birdwing is the world’s largest species of butterfly
With an enormous wingspan of up to 28 centimetres, Queen Alexandra’s birdwing deservedly has the title of the world’s largest butterfly. Vibrantly coloured, this magnificent butterfly feeds only from a single species of vine. The vine contains a toxic substance which, when consumed by the caterpillar, makes them distasteful to potential predators. This trait is advertised by the caterpillar’s bright, conspicuous colouration, but if consumed by a naive predator, the toxin may cause severe vomiting. The adult Queen Alexandra’s birdwing feeds on the flowers of the same vine.
As one of the world’s most beautiful butterflies, Queen Alexandra’s birdwing is extremely attractive to collectors. Fetching thousands of dollars per butterfly, this rare species has suffered severely from over harvesting. This species is now protected from collectors, though it is still targeted illegally. Presently, the main threat to this butterfly species is the loss of its lowland rainforest habitat.
For more information on Queen Alexandra’s birdwing, visit the Natural History Museum website.
For more information on Endangered species, visit our new Endangered species pages.
Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author