Degree: Master of Science in Marine Science
Researcher: Ms. Visheshni Chandra
Thesis title: A study on habitat, biology and behavior of Papilio schmeltzii Herrich-Schaffer
Principal supervisor: Dr. Uma Kumar (USP) & Dr. Inoue A. Takashi (Japanese National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences Owashi 1-2)
- Verify the natural habitat of P. schmeltzii and its specific larval host plants
- Undertake a study of each stage of the P. schmeltzii life cycle in the field and in captivity
- Investigate the preference of food type, distribution and other behavioural aspects of P. schmeltzii.
Papilio schmeltzii Herrich-Schffer is Fiji's largest butterfly and is one of some 44 species of butterflies that inhabit Fiji. P. schmeltzii show high degrees of endemisms and are restricted to Fiji only. Papilionids are a very small group in the South Pacific, one of two species found on the eastern edge of the Pacific Islands. Papilio godeffroyi in Western Samoa and Papilio schmeltzi here in Fiji. Gottlieb August Wilhelm-Herrich-Schaeffer first described Papilio schmeltzi in 1869 (Robinson, 1975).
The study area for studying teh Fijian swallowtail butterflies is located in Vatukarasa area, Sigatoka. Sigatoka is situated on the dry western side of the island of Viti Levu, Fiji. Vatukarasa village is located along the coral coast and the study area is located 1.9km inland from the main road. The area is generally flat with slopes on one side of the area and the area is covered by medium forested.
The behaviour and life history of the endemic Papilio schmeltzii is recorded for the first time. P. schmeltzii butterflies mostly prefer flowers of Stachytarpheta articifolia (blue rat's tail) and Pentas lanceolata, occurring around the edge of the light-dark area. The host plant was found to be Micromelum minitum of the Rutaceae family. The female P. schmeltzii has been observed to oviposit on the leaves of this plant in dark shadow areas, in the field. The first four instars are brown and white in colour that resembles bird droppings for protection against predators. The last instar is green in colour to camouflage with the background of the leaves. The pupa has two colouration, green and brown depending upon its background. The rearing of P. schmeltzii butterflies in captivity has been successful, courtship behaviour, oviposition and emergence from pupa stage has been observed.