Lepidochrysops liberti, Sáfián, Szabolcs & Tropek, Robert, 2016

Sáfián, Szabolcs & Tropek, Robert, 2016, Two new butterfly species (Lepidoptera: Rhopalocera) from Mount Cameroon, Gulf of Guinea Highlands, Cameroon, Zootaxa 4150 (2), pp. 123-132 : 124-126

publication ID

https://doi.org/ 10.11646/zootaxa.4150.2.2

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scientific name

Lepidochrysops liberti

sp. nov.

Lepidochrysops liberti sp. nov.

(FIGS: 1A, B; 2A, D, C, F; 3A, 4)

Holotype. Ƌ PlantiCam camp, along the main tourist trail, south-western slope of Mount Cameroon, South-West Province , Cameroon 23.XI–18.XII.2014. Leg.: Sáfián , Sz. & Tropek, R.; Gen. prep.: SAFI 00076 . Coordinates: N 04.117°, E 09.073°, elevation: 1100–1200 m a.s.l. GoogleMaps

Paratypes. 6 66, 1 ♀ PlantiCam camp, along the main tourist trail (1100–1200 m a.s.l.), south-western slope of Mount Cameroon, South-West Province , Cameroon; 23.XI–18.XII.2014. Leg.: Sáfián, Sz. & Tropek, R.; 1♂ PlantiCam camp, along the main tourist trail (1100-1200 m a.s.l.), south-western slope of Mount Cameroon, South- West Province , Cameroon; 23.XI–18.XII.2014. Leg.: Sáfián , Sz. & Tropek, R.; Gen. prep.: SAFI 00075 .

Description of the holotype. Forewing: 18.5 mm. Wingspan: 31 mm. Upperside ground colour is white, with light blue scaling at the base of both wings, which extends into the cell (covering approximately one-third of the cell) also along the veins to a variable length. The forewing apex is broadly black, only slightly tapering down along the outer margin. The forewing costa is also narrowly black beyond veins 8, 9 and 10. A prominent black streak is present at the end of the discoidal cell. The hindwing has only a narrow black margin, with inconspicuous black sub-marginal spots in spaces between veins 1 and 7, except in space between veins 2 and 3, where a prominent black round-spot is present. The spot is ringed with orange basally. The veins are black, more strongly in the outer half of the wings. A fine hair-tail is present at the end of vein 2 of the hindwing. The underside is white with a slight light-brown tinge and very light whitish-blue scaling in the base of both wings. The black upperside markings are visible only as a pale brown shade, five brown spots forming a post-median line in spaces between veins 2 and 7 of the forewing, the central spot is more like a streak, protruding slightly from the line. On the hindwing a rather irregular median line is formed by seven, more or less circular brown spots, the central of which is characteristically long and elliptic. Four black dots are also present in the sub-basal area of the hindwing, two along the inner margin (the basal one is very small and inconspicuous), one in the cell and one near the costa.

The prominent marginal black spot of the hindwing upperside at the base of the hair-tail is large also on the underside, it is black with turquoise blue scales marginally, and ringed with orange. The body is black dorsally, with bluish-white hairs, white ventrally. The legs and the palpi are also white. The eyes are bald, brown. The antennae are black, ringed with white.

Male genitalia. Uncus blunt, parallelogram shaped with long hairs. Sub-unci long, slender, strongly curving. Valvae narrow with long hairs, their dorsal edge gently, ventral edge strongly curving. The tips are strongly hooked. Aedeagus is broad and short, the tip is rather acute and bifurcate.

Description of the female. Forewing: 20.5 mm, Wingspan: 40.5 mm. The general appearance of the female is very similar to that of male, however the size is generally larger, the forewing apex is slightly less acute and the black markings are stronger.

Diagnosis. Although the newly described L. liberti is morphologically very close to L. phoebe , the following differences allow safe identification of both taxa: the black margin on the forewing upperside of L. liberti is completely black, while a row of ill-defined white spots is present between the tornus and vein 4 in L. phoebe . There is a row of black spots along the margin of the hindwing upperside between veins 1 and 7 in L. liberti , while in L. phoebe the margin is broadly black, framing white lunules between veins 1 and 7 with an additional inner submarginal black line. This is also present on the hindwing underside in L. phoebe , where the inner line is formed by gently curving short streaks. A full row of black streaks also form an inner sub-marginal line from the inner margin and the costa on the forewing in L. phoebe , while the row of black streaks is not full in L. liberti and they are never connected in forming a line. The most conspicuous black spot at the base of the hairtail between veins 2 and 3 is faintly ringed with orange from its basal side in L. liberti , while orange is absent in L. phoebe . The orange ring around the black spot is even more pronounced on the underside of L. liberti , while it is completely absent or vestigial in L. phoebe (the black spot is ringed with white). No female of L. phoebe is known so far. The male genitalia of the two species are also similar and as in several groups of Lepidochrysops might not be diagnostic, however the uncus is parallelogram-shaped in L. liberti , while it flattens dorsally in L. phoebe . Also the tip of the aedeagus is bifurcate in both dissected males in L. liberti , whereas the tip in L. phoebe tapers down ventrally in the lateral view.

Note. Unfortunately the holotype of L. phoebe is in such poor condition that diagnostic features are hardly visible. We therefore illustrate also a paratype with a paratype of L. liberti for better comparison.

Etymology. L. liberti is named in honour of Michel Libert, the author of its sister species, L. phoebe . Michel dedicated his entire life to the study of African butterflies and has personally authored descriptions of over 100 species from almost all families, including many mountain species from the Gulf of Guinea Highlands. Without his thorough work revising various groups, many genera would still remain a taxonomic mess.

Habitat and behaviour. Lepidochrysops liberti occurs in a mosaic-like landscape that is strongly affected by extensive natural disturbances by forest elephants. Permanent foraging activity of the elephants has resulted in a diverse network of open clearings dominated by grasses and ferns and regenerating young trees and shrubs between fragments of old-growth thick submontane forest. Such open habitats have already been discussed to be crucial for various (sub)montane butterflies of the region ( Tropek & Konvicka 2010, Tropek et al. 2013). L. liberti flies along the edges of forest patches and in scrubby openings. Very often it has been observed near stands of a creeping perennial herb Solenostemon mannii (Hook.f.) Baker ( Lamiaceae ) which could be a potential food plant, although no egg - laying was observed. Along larger stands of this plant, males were displaying and fighting together; they also regularly perched on leaves of the plant. Judging from the distribution of S. mannii in the study area, as well as from the majority of the observed butterfly specimens, L. liberti seems to live in patchily distributed smaller colonies, which are most probably connected, as L. liberti specimens were also observed readily flying over forest patches or passing through larger, visibly unsuitable clearings.

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