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Fostering Plain Tigers

 A few months back, I had planted a Bloodflower(milkweed) plant in the hope of breeding Plain Tiger Butterflies. It was wonderful to watch the metamorphosis. Here are the pictures...

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The host plant is called bloodflower. The plant belongs to a group known as Milkweeds.
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Mature female plain tigers lay their eggs on these plants...
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Milkweeds secrete latex which contains chemicals called cardenolides, which are ingested by the larvae as they feed on the plant...
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The cardenolides are toxic to potential predators (but not the larvae), and can be stored till they mature...
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Cardenolides had evolved in plants as a defense against herbivores, but some herbivores, including plain tiger larvae, evolved enzymes to become able to process these cardenolides...

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After few days of heavy eating of leaves, the larvae prepare for the Pupa stage...
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It attaches itself to the wall...
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Some get attached to the ceiling.... 

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The pupal stage of the plain tiger lasts about 9 to 15 days, where the caterpillar hardens...
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As days pass, the chrysalis becomes brown and the butterfly inside becomes visible...
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I kept monitoring them so that I won't miss the adult butterfly stage. After a wait that was akin to watching paint dry, the butterflies started emerging...
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The crumpled wings..
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The wings straighten in about 5 minutes. Then it hangs there for about 3 hours.... 

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After 3-4 hours it gets ready to fly by flapping its wings...
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Male and female plain tigers look extremely similar, but males can easily be differentiated from females with the presence of an additional black-and-white spot on its hindwing.
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Adult plain tigers also ingest and store another type of toxic substance called pyrrolizidine alkaloids...

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These chemicals cause plain tigers to be inedible (usually causing vomiting) to many predators, especially birds. Predators which have suffered the negative effects of eating a plain tiger subsequently learn to avoid eating the same type of butterfly because of its bright, noticeable coloration and pattern...

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This 'strategy' of using warning colours to ward off predators is also known as aposematism...



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