Muschampia proto

Western Sage Skipper


by Matt Rowlings

copyright © 2003-2024

Show butterflies of: EU US
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Burgos, Spain, July 2011

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Lleida, Spain, May 2007

Field notes and information

A widespread species in the south, becoming harder to find in the north of its range.

In 2020, Hinojosa et al published a paper identifying 3 cryptic species formerly grouped as M. proto. The analysis included nuclear and mitochondrial DNA and male genitalia. No distinguishing wing characters were identified but this wasn’t part of the study. In conclusion, the taxons are split geographically as follows:
M. proto is confined to N Africa, Spain and S France
M. alta is confined to S Italy and mainland Greece
M. proteides is found eastwards from Turkey and also the Greek islands of Tilos and Symi.

Identification & Similar species: A fairly large species with a characteristically "furry" appearance. It is usually well marked with a generous dusting of creamy scales which create the furriness on a soft black or brown ground colour. The upperside hindwing markings are prominent but also furred over. The underside has a distinct discal band that usually traverses the whole wing but may taper in the male.

There are no currently known distinguishing characters between the 3 crypto-species Western, Southern and Eastern sage skippers, M. proto, alta, proteides. Distribution is key to identification.

Similar species are all rare and exceedingly local with very restricted European or north African distributions.

Distribution & Flight: Spain, southern parts of France and the mountains of north Africa. Flies in a single brood from April to October, usually (?) peaking in the summer.

Habitat & Behaviour: Hot dry grassy stony places, usually amongst scrub. In the summer drought of the Mediterranean, this species is often the only butterfly flying in very hot dry "dead" locations.

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Burgos, Spain, July 2011

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Malaga, Spain, May 2019

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Montes Universales, Spain, July 2011

Taking salts from damp ground with P. cirsii on the right.

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Cadiz, Spain, October 2014

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Almeria, Spain, May 2019

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Almeria, Spain, April 2009

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Prov. Malaga, Spain, July 2013

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Prov. Malaga, Spain, July 2013

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Malaga, Spain, May 2019

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Bouches du Rhône, France, July 2010

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Bouches du Rhône, France, August 2004

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Prov. Malaga, Spain, July 2013

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Montes Universales, Spain, August 2003