100 Years – 100 Objects: Luzon Peacock Swallowtail – Papilio chikae

The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 - meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now. For this yearlong series, our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum’s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts—one for each year of our history. Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind-the-scenes curiosities—we will post the image and description of a new object every few days.

This description is from Nancy, the museum’s director of the Cockrell Butterfly Center and curator of entomology. She’s chosen a selection of objects that represent the rarest and most interesting insects in the Museum’s collections, that we’ll be sharing here – and on hmns.org – throughout the year.

One of the beautiful “peacock” swallowtails, this species has a very limited distribution – endemic to the mountains of Luzon in the Philippines – and was only discovered about 40 years ago.  Highly sought after by collectors and not well-protected in its native habitat, the Luzon Peacock is endangered enough to be listed on the CITES’ Appendix I (collecting or trading wild-caught CITES I species is prohibited by international agreement).

As is true for many swallowtails, the male and female Luzon Peacock are slightly different or “dimorphic” in size and color pattern (females typically being duller in color and larger in size, although this specimen is on the small side).  Here, the male is on the right, the female on the left.

Learn more about butterflies and their relatives in a visit to the new Brown Hall of Entomology, a part of the Cockrell Butterfly Center– a living, walk-through rainforest at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

You can see larger and
more detailed images of this rare specimen – as well as the others we’ve posted so far this year – in the photo gallery on hmns.org.