Wallace's Golden Birdwing

Ornithoptera croesus

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The Species

Wallace’s Golden Birdwing (scientific name: Ornithoptera croesus) is named after Alfred Russel Wallace (close collaborator of Charles Darwin), who described the species in 1858. He wrote:

“The beauty and brilliancy of this insect are indescribable, and none but a naturalist can understand the intense excitement I experienced when I at length captured it. On taking it out of my net and opening the glorious wings, my heart began to beat violently, the blood rushed to my head, and I felt much more like fainting than I have done when in apprehension of immediate death. I had a headache the rest of the day, so great was the excitement produced by what will appear to most people a very inadequate cause.”

It has a conservation status of Near Threatened.

The ‘croesus’ in its scientific name, Ornithoptera croesus, comes from King Croesus of Lydia, an iron-age kingdom. This butterfly is normally found in Indonesia. Like other birdwing species, it is sexually dimorphic: the two sexes display physical characteristics that differ beyond the sexual organs. The male butterfly has black forewings with a yellow/orange/golden leading edge, and golden yellow hindwings with black edges. The female butterfly has brown wings with yellow chevron markings.

Wallace's Golden Birdwing

Role in Ecology

The presence of butterflies and moths implies a healthy ecosystem and is a good indicator of biodiversity. They’re quite vulnerable to changes in their habitat and massive, humanity-driven changes are pushing them to the brink. Butterflies (along with other insects) play an extremely important role in plant pollination and enable genetic mutations in plant species. They are known to travel long distances, facilitating long-distance pollination. They also act as lower members of the food chain and their diminishing populations have a reductive upstream effect on other members of the food chain. They have been used in many scientific studies to advance our understanding of the insect world.

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Importance of Biodiversity

Biodiversity (or Biological Diversity) is a term that describes the variety of living beings on earth, and includes diversity across species, within species, and across ecosystems. It is vital to maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. According to scientific estimates there are 8.7 million species on the planet.

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