Seasonal variation

Like many butterflies of the family Nymphalidae the southern subspecies of the gaudy commodore displays a seasonal variation in it’s wing patterning. That is to say that individuals growing as larvae and emerging as adults in the warm summer will appear different to those growing and emerging in the cooler winters of the South African zone. What makes the present species particularly interesting is the extreme difference between the two seasonal forms displayed.

In many seasonally variable species of butterfly, particularly from the subfamily Satyrinae, the seasonal variation can be explained in terms of survival, with each form being better adapted to it’s own seasonal environment than the alternative. The extreme seasonal variation of the gaudy commodore has not been investigated in this way, and so the process that maintains this variation is a mystery.