Nature conservation

Threatened species

Purple Copper Butterfly, Bathurst Copper Butterfly - profile

Indicative distribution


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Key:
known
predicted
The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Paralucia spinifera
Conservation status in NSW: Endangered
Commonwealth status: Vulnerable
Gazetted date: 15 Nov 1996
Profile last updated: 20 Dec 2023

Description

A small butterfly with a wingspan of approximately 20 mm. The upper sides of the butterfly’s wings are copper-coloured and display a purple, blue, and green iridescence when sunning. The undersides of the wings are patterned with subtle brown, black and grey. The black antennae are dotted with white spots and terminate with a black tip. It is distinguished from P. aurifera and P. pyrodiscus by the size, shape and colour of the wings, and also by a spine that extends over a joint in the forelegs.

Distribution

Until very recently purple copper butterfly was only known to occur in the Bathurst and Lithgow regions of NSW. In August 2021 the species was discovered flying within Namadgi National Park, ACT. This species has highly specific habitat requirements and only occurs where the food plant Bursaria spinosa subsp. lasiophylla and an attendant ant species is present. It is highly possible that additional locations will be identified where the food plant occurs and these may lie outside the currently known distribution of the species. 

Habitat and ecology

  • Occurs above 850 m elevation.
  • Geology, soils, topographic position and dominant vegetation canopy species vary between habitat locations. However vegetation structure is consistent, commonly open woodland or open forest with a sparse understorey that is dominated by the shrub, Native Blackthorn Bursaria spinosa subsp. lasiophylla.
  • Its lifecycle relies on a mutualistic relationship with the ant, Anonychomyrma itinerans, and on the presence of B. spinosa subsp. lasiophylla which the larvae of the species feed exclusively on.
  • The butterflies can emerge late August (later at higher altitude sites) through to early November, peak activity varies between sites and may also vary between seasons. Many sites have a peak period in September. After mating, the females lay eggs on B. spinosa subsp. lasiophylla. After hatching, the larva is attended by the ant A. itinerans, which provide protection from predators to the larvae. In return the ant benefits by receiving nutritional secretions from the larvae. Larvae grow through up to eight instars in a 6-8 week period, initially diurnal up until the 3rd instar, after which they become nocturnal. Larvae feed exclusively on B. spinosa subsp. lasiophylla, when not feeding, in the later stages of development, the larvae are hosted within the underground nest of A. itinerans at the base of a Bursaria plant. Pupation occurs between December and August within the underground ants' nest.
  • The relationship with A. itinerans and B. spinosa subsp. lasiophylla is not well understood, but it is thought to be highly significant and mutual beneficial. Even though the ant is sometimes difficult to detect, A. itinerans has been recorded at all locations. Similarly B. spinosa subsp. lasiophylla is present at all locations.
  • Adult males fly rapidly at about one metre from the ground and rest with wings parted in places exposed to full sun. Females fly less rapidly and tend to remain nearer to the host plant. The butterflies generally remain in the vicinity of B. spinosa subsp. lasiophylla, and are rarely observed more than 10 - 40 m distant from the plant.

Regional distribution and habitat

Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.


Threats

Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
Australian AlpsSnowy Mountains Predicted Above 800 m altitude
NSW South Western SlopesCapertee Valley Predicted Above 800 m altitude
South Eastern HighlandsBathurst Known Above 800 m altitude
South Eastern HighlandsBondo Known Above 800 m altitude
South Eastern HighlandsCapertee Uplands Known Above 800 m altitude
South Eastern HighlandsHill End Known Above 800 m altitude
South Eastern HighlandsMurrumbateman Predicted Over 800 m altitude
South Eastern HighlandsOberon Known Above 800 m altitude
Sydney BasinBurragorang Known Above 800 m altitude
Sydney BasinWollemi Known Above 800 m altitude