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Specimens of dead leaf butterflies and Trogonoptera brookiana

Specimens of dead leaf butterflies and Trogonoptera brookiana

Catalogue number: Drawer 18

Wallace's specimens of dead leaf butterflies from Asia and moths from North America.

This drawer was arranged by Wallace and contains four specimens of the dead leaf butterfly (Kallima) from Asia, which are pinned with their wings folded to show the patterns on the underside. The second specimen down is probably the one illustrated in Wallace's book The Malay Archipelago (figure 18).

Wallace mentioned dead leaf butterflies in several of his writings. One important article was called Mimicry, and Other Protective Resemblances Among Animals, (Westminster Review, 1867). He says that this type of butterfly was '...the most wonderful and undoubted case of protective resemblance in a butterfly...' he had ever seen.

Within the species there is a lot of variation. Wallace estimated that '...out of fifty specimens no two can be found exactly alike, but every one of them will be of some shade of ash or brown or ochre, such as are found among dead, dry, or decaying leaves'. Some of them even look like they have holes in the wings and patterns that look like the fungi that grow on dead leaves. When the butterfly rests, it tightly closes its wings and '...the little tails of the hind wing touch the branch, and form a perfect stalk to the leaf...the irregular outline of the wings gives exactly the perspective effect of a shrivelled leaf'.

There is also a specimen of the striking metallic green and black Trogonoptera brookiana butterfly (note that this particular specimen was not actually collected by Wallace). Wallace thought this species was '...perhaps the most elegant butterfly in the world' and he named it after Sir James Brooke, the respected ruler of Sarawak. Wallace stayed with Brooke for a while during his travels."

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Letter to Alfred Russel Wallace from the Royal Society, about his Darwin Medal award

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