Skip to main content Skip to main navigation menu Skip to site footer
Type: Article
Published: 2023-01-26
Page range: 65-78
Abstract views: 506
PDF downloaded: 359

A new subspecies of Papilio saharae Oberthür, 1879 (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae) from Lampedusa, Italy

1Institute of Earth Systems, University of Malta.
2Rama-Rama, 27, Triq Monsinjur Anton Cilia, Zebbug, ZBG 3140, Malta.
386/2 Moo 5, Tambon Nong Kwai, Hang Dong, Chiang Mai, Thailand.


An investigation into the only representative of the genus Papilio on the island of Lampedusa, the largest island of the Pelagian group, was conducted as part of a broader Mediterranean-wide study on the machaon complex. Over a three-year period, adults, larvae and ova were collected for further research during field visits, while an in-house breeding programme involving wild-collected gravid females was initiated with a view to examine an adequately sized series of specimens. A total of 38 adults, including 23 male specimens, >150 ova, 233 larvae, and 220 pupae were examined. In addition to a thorough morphometric assessment, statistical tests were performed using one-way ANOVA and multivariate analysis. Results demonstrate morphological characters of P. saharae and, to a lesser degree, of P. machaon, suggesting that the taxon is plausibly the outcome of a hybrid swarm whose occurrence on the island was facilitated by Pleistocene lowstands (when the island was physically connected with the north African continental landmass, the taxon’s centre of origin). Based on results, involving all four stages of metamorphosis, it is proposed to ‘anchor’ the taxon to Papilio saharae Oberthür, 1879 and assign it subspecific status, aferpilaggi ssp. nov.



  1. Benyamini, D. (2008) Is Euchloe falloui Allard, 1867 (Pieridae) the butterfly with the longest diapause? Nota Lepidopterologica, 31 (2), 293–295.
    Benyamini D. (2017) Natural hybrid populations of P. machaon and P. saharae in the Negev, S. Israel. Presentation at the 34th Annual Meeting of the Israeli Lepidopterist’s Society, 25 April 2017. The Botanical Garden of the Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem. The Mandel School for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, Cleveland, Ohio, 21 slides.
    Benyamini, D. & John, E. (2020) Butterflies of the Levant and nearby areas. Vol. II. Papilionidae, Pieridae & Hesperiidae. 4D MicroRobotics Publications Ltd., Beit-Arye, 208 pp.
    Cassar, L.F. (2018) Papilio saharae Oberthür, 1879 (Lepidoptera Papilionidae) on the Hyblean Plateau, Sicily: Case of a relict population due to climate-driven phenomena? Naturalista siciliano, 42 (1), 21–29.
    Cassar, L.-F. & Catania, A. (2022) Preliminary findings on the presence of a taxon with morphological traits of Papilio saharae Oberthür, 1879 in Lampedusa (Italy) (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). SHILAP Revta. lepid., 50 (198), 303–312.
    Domagala, P.A. & Lis, J.A. (2022) One Species, Hundreds of Subspecies? New Insight into the Intraspecific Classification of the Old World Swallowtail (Papilio machaon Linnaeus, 1758) Based on Two Mitochondrial DNA Markers. Insects, 13, 752.
    García-Barros, E. (1996) Egg size in butterflies (Lepidoptera: Papilionoidea and Hesperiidae): A summary of data. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera, 35, 90–136.
    Giraudi, C. (2004) The Upper Pleistocene to Holocene sediments on the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa (Italy). Journal of Quaternary Science, 19 (6), 537–545.
    Grasso, M., Pedley, M.H. & Reuther, C.D. (1985) The geology of the Pelagian Islands and their structural setting related to the Pantelleria rift (central Mediterranean Sea). Centro, 1 (2), 1–19.
    Grasso, M. & Pedley, H.M. (1988) The sedimentology and development of the Terravecchia Formation carbonates (Upper Miocene) of north-central Sicily: possible eustatic influences on facies development. Sedimentary Geology, 57, 131–149.
    Larsen, T.B. (1984) The zoogeographical composition and distribution of Arabian butterflies (Lepidoptera; Rhopalocera). Journal of Biogeography, 11, 119–158.
    Leraut, P. (2016) Butterflies of Europe and neighbouring regions. N.A.P Ed., VerrieÌres-le-Buisson, 1113 pp., 655 pls., 6000 ph.
    Linnaeus, C. (1758) s.n. In: Systema Naturae per Regna Tria Naturae, Secundum Classes, Ordines, Genera, Species, cum Characteribus, Differentiis, Symonymis, Locis . Tom. I. Pars II. Editio 10. Litaris & impensis Direct. Laur. Salvii, Holmiae, pp. 533–1328.
    Marini, M. & Trentini, M. (1989) SEM morphological observations of Papilio hospiton Gn. 1839 and P. machaon L. 1758 eggs (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). Nota Lepidopterologica, 12 (3), 175–178.
    Moonen, J.J.M. (2012) Notes on the Papilio machaon group (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae) from the Palaearctic Papilionidae collection of the Zoological Museum of Amsterdam. Ent. Berich., 72 (3), 184–186.
    Oberthür, C. (1879) Catalogue raissoné des Papilionidae de la collection de Ch. Oberthür. Études d’Entomologie, 4, 19–102 + 107–117, pls. I–VI.
    Palmi, P. (2022) Farfalle Italiane. Available from: (accessed 20 July 2022)
    Pierron, M. (1990) Contribution a la connaissance de la biologie de Papilio machaon saharae Obth. Differences avec Papilio machaon machaon L. et hybridations experimentales (Lep. Papilionidae). Alexanor, 16 (6), 331–340.
    Pittaway, A.R. (1985) Lepidoptera Rhopalocera from western Saudi Arabia. Fauna of Saudi Arabia, 7, 172–197.
    Pittaway, A.R., Larsen, T.B., Clarke, C.A., Smith, C.R., Crnjar, R. & Clarke, F.M.M. (1994) Papilio saharae Oberthür, 1879, specifically distinct from Papilio machaon Linnaeus, 1758 (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). Ent. Gazette, 45, 223–249.
    Romano, M. (2020) Insects of Lampedusa, Linosa and Pantelleria: Addenda to the 1995 Checklist. In: La Mantia, T., Badalamenti, E., Carapezza, A., Lo Cascio, P. & Troia, A. (Eds.), Life on Islands. Biodiversity in Sicily and surrounding islands. Studies dedicated to Bruno Massa. Edizioni Danaus, Palermo, pp. 1–492.
    Romano, F.P. & Romano, M. (1995) Lepidoptera. In: Massa, B. (Ed.), Arthropoda di Lampedusa, Linosa e Pantelleria (Canale di Sicilia, Mar Mediterraneo). Il Naturalista Siciliano, 19 (Supplement), pp. 693–722.
    Smith, C.R. & Vane-Wright, R.I. (2001) A review of the Afrotropical species of the genus Graphium (Lepidoptera: Rhopalocera: Papilionidae). Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) Entomology, 70, 503–719.
    Strobino, R. (1970) Observations concernant Papilio hospiton Geìneì en Corse, et ses hybrides naturels avec P. machaon L. Entomops, 19, 103–112.
    Tarrier, M. (2020) The Papilionidae of Morocco. An updated and annotated monography. Self-published, s.n., 76 pp., maps.
    Tennent, J. (1996) The Butterflies of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Gem Publishing Co., Wallingford, xxxvi + 217 pp.
    Tolman, T. & Lewington, R. (1998) Die Tagfalter Europas und Nordwestafrikas, übersetzt von M. Nuß, Franckh-Kosmos. Verlags-GmbH & Co., Stuttgart, 319 pp.
    Vodă, R., Dapporto, L., Dincă, V., Shreeve, T.G., Khaldi, M., Barech, G., Rebbas, K., Sammut, P., Scalercio, S., Hebert, P.D. & Vila, R. (2016) Historical and contemporary factors generate unique butterfly communities on islands. Scientific Reports, 6, 28828.