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Darwin Correspondence Project

From H. W. Bates   20 April 1868

Royal Geographical Society | 15, Whitehall Place, S.W.

April 20 1868

My dear Mr Darwin

I have found amongst my old papers a rude drawing of the conspicuous caterpillar which you intend to mention so enclose it.1 I believe it is natural size; the black is not deep enough, otherwise I think the colour is accurate

The species of Æneas group of Papilio in which the sexes show no difference in colours or pattern are2

P. Triopas

P. Chabrias

P. Montezuma males simply have deeper & richer ground

P. Panthonus colour than females

P. Ascanius— I see no difference in tint of ground colour.

P. Ascanius in both sexes is handsome; I think more conspicuous & gay in colouring than any of the other four species here mentioned. The whole Æneas group is remarkable for its rich, strongly-constrated3 & conspicuous colouring; but the rule is—less richness of tint in ♀ than in ♂, although the ♀ has often more variety of colour. It is very clear there is no adaptation of female colouring to disguise in this group.

The females of Argynnis Diana & A. Sagana are of olive-brown or blackish colours relieved by lighter marks.4 Regarded absolutely one cannot consider them less beautiful than their males; but there is no doubt, here, adaptation for purposes of disguise has taken place; Entomologists of the countries where they are found alone could say what they imitate; I have no idea myself; but A. Sagana ♀ is coloured much like many common butterflies of Adolias group found in some countries.5

Yours sincerely | H W Bates

A capital suggestion that of H. Doubleday!6

CD annotations

1.1 I have … accurate 1.3] crossed pencil
3.1 The females … countries. 3.6] crossed pencil


The enclosure has not been found, but in Descent 1: 416, CD gave Bates’s description of the caterpillar, ‘the most conspicuous … which he ever beheld’.
For more on the ‘Æneas group’, see the letter from H. W. Bates, 12 March 1868 and nn. 5 and 10. All the species mentioned in the list now belong to the genus Parides.
Bates evidently intended ‘strongly-contrasted’.
Argynnis Diana is now Speyeria diana, the Diana fritillary); Argynnis Sagana is now Damora sagana. Both species are highly sexually dimorphic.
The genus Adolias is now Euthalia (barons).
Bates refers to Henry Doubleday. See letter to H. W. Bates, 15 April [1868] and n. 5.


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.


In addition to the drawing of a caterpillar which CD intends to use,

HWB sends information on differences of colour and pattern between the sexes of species of Papilio.

Argynnis diana and A. sagana have females that are brightly coloured, but these may be cases of protective mimicry.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henry Walter Bates
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
R. Geogr. Soc.
Source of text
DAR 82: A42–3
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6132,” accessed on 25 October 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16