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Occurrence of Appias albina albina (Boisduval, 1836) (Lepidoptera: Pieridae: Pierinae) in northern Australia: phenotypic variation, life history and biology, with remarks on its taxonomic status


  • Michael F. BRABY,

    Corresponding author
    1. Biodiversity Conservation, Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts and Sport, Palmerston, Northern Territory,
    2. Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory,
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    • Present address: Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory, GPO Box 4646, Darwin, NT 0801, Australia

  • David A. LANE,

    1. 3 Janda St, Atherton, Queensland, and,
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  • Richard P. WEIR

    1. 1 Longwood Ave, Leanyer, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
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Michael F. Braby, Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory, GPO Box 4646, Darwin, NT 0801, Australia. Email:


Variation in adult phenotype, the life history and general biology of the “White Albatross”, Appias albina albina (Boisduval, 1836), are described and illustrated from the monsoon tropics of the northern Australia for the first time. Like elsewhere throughout the species' wide geographical range, the population exhibits sex-limited polymorphism, with females having three distinct color morphs (white, yellow, intermediate). Variation within and among these morphs is compared with populations from elsewhere in South-East Asia, particularly Maluku (including the type locality Ambon), and comments are made on the taxonomic status of the Australian population. The species inhabits coastal semi-deciduous monsoon vine-thicket where its larval food plant Drypetes deplanchei (Brongn. & Gris) Merr. (Euphorbiaceae) grows on lateritic edges and cliffs. The early stages and behaviour are compared with those of A. albina pancheia Fruhstorfer, 1910 from South-East Asia and A. paulina ega (Boisduval, 1836) from Australia. Adults are highly seasonal, their timing of appearance coinciding with annual leaf flush of the larval food plant and onset of the summer monsoon. During this period, the broad flight season lasts about two months, the life cycle is completed in approximately four weeks, and the species is probably univoltine or partially bivoltine. We conclude that breeding populations of A. albina albina in Australia are resident, but it remains to be established how the species survives the long dry season.