The Cretan fauna. Insects, snails, etc.

Molluscs such as mussels and snails, and arthropods such as insects, spiders, crayfish, etc. are assumed to constitute some 1,170,000 known species and stand for approx. 80% of all live animals. How many thousands of them that are living on Crete, is not known, but it's certainly more than we can describe here.

But also when it comes to molluscs and arthropods Crete has a rich and interesting fauna. Many of the species can be found only in Crete. Some few of these are described below.


Zerynthia cerisyi cretica

Cretan Festoon

(Zerynthia cerisyi cretica)

Greece has over 230 species of butterflies and is thus one of the countries in Europe with the richest butterfly fauna. Many of the species are endemic to Greece. And in addition, the mild climate makes the season for the butterflies' flight very long. From February and into November.

One of the endemic butterfly species is the Cretan Festoon (Zerynthia cerisyi cretica). A small butterfly found only in the mountains of Crete. It belongs to a group of butterflies called swallowtails. Most of this species are large, colorful butterflies, but the Cretan Festoon is among the smallest. Its wing span is 4-5 cm. By comparison, the largest Swallowtails have a wingspan of up to 28 cm. The male has a pale yellow color with black markings on the forewings and black and red spots on the hindwings. The female is yellow or reddish yellow with black markings on the fore- and hindwings as well as red and blue spots on the hindwings.
The Cretan Festoon feeds on nectar from various flowers, while the larvae feed on the Birthwort plant. The Birthwort found on Crete, is also endemic (Aristolochia cretica). It grows in the shade of other vegetation in areas with sparse woodland or shrub-covered hillsides. This is also where you find the Cretan Festoon. The Cretan Festoon live scattered all over Crete, but is not very common and can be difficult to observe because its habitat is inaccessible.
After mating, the eggs are laid on a Birthwort plant on the underside of the leaves. They hatch after 2-3 weeks, after which the larvae feeds on the host plant. Because the plant is poisonous the larvae also become poisonous, which makes them unpalatable to birds and other enemies. The larvae are yellow with black stripes and red tufts of hair.
Larvae pupate after a few weeks. The cocoon is well hidden. It looks like the withered stalk where it is put. Here it overwinters for approx. 10 months. In spring, the adult butterfly appears. Depending on air temperature the adult butterfly will typically fly from March to May or June. However, each butterfly only lives for a few weeks.