Having received tremendous attention from both collectors and taxonomists, Parnassius butterflies are among the most well studied butterflies in alpine zones. The region of greatest diversity of Parnassius is the eastern Palaearctic, from Pakistan to central Asia and China. A few species extend as far as Europe, Japan, and into the Nearctic (Weiss, 1991, 1995).
The caterpillars of Parnassius, like other swallowtails, possess the peculiar structure known as an osmeterium at the back of their head. They feed on various members of Crassulaceae and Papaveraceae. Isolation of Parnassius populations in various mountain ranges has resulted in differentiation and subsequent description of numerous subspecies, varieties and forms (e.g. Bryk, 1935).
Many detailed books and checklists have been published on the taxonomy of Parnassius (e.g. see Weiss, 1991-2005; Tshikolovets, 1998-2003); these books usually offer high quality images and color maps, and illustrate a substantial range of morphological variability for many of the species of Parnassius.
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