Photo/Illutration

  • Photo/Illutration

Editor's note: This is part of a series of videos offering an up-close perspective on the animal kingdom. A special 360-degree video camera system was set up in zoos and other facilities to show how the animals view their world as they interact.

Also visit our special 360-DEGREE LIVES page (http://t.asahi.com/360lives), where you can watch all the previous videos.

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The tree nymph, one of the largest butterflies in Japan, flits and floats gracefully in the air with its wings spread wide.

While the insect is known for its beautiful white wings with black spots, its larva and pupa are metallic gold.

The Adachi Park of Living Things in Tokyo’s Adachi Ward keeps the mysterious butterfly for exhibition throughout the year.

In Japan, the butterfly can be found in Kikaijima island, Kagoshima Prefecture, and subtropical and tropical areas in or south of Okinawa Prefecture. It has a wingspan of up to about 13 centimeters.

About 800 butterflies of about 20 species inhabits a large greenhouse housing tropical vegetation, boasting a total area of about 500 square meters. The room temperature is maintained at no less than 18 degrees even during winter.

There is also a breeding room where Tsushima Uraboshi Shijimi (Pithecops fulgens tsushimanus) and other rare butterflies are grown from eggs. The interior is lined with cases containing larvae and pupae.

But particularly noticeable are the gold-colored pupae of the large tree nymph, as well as its larvae mottled with black and white and spotted with red flecks.

According to butterfly keeper Nagisa Mizuochi, the pupa’s membrane consists of multiple layers that diffuse light in all directions. One theory says that the color warns birds and other predators that it is toxic, while it also serves as protective coloration.

When eclosion is near, the pupa gradually turns black. Because the larva feeds on a plant called “horai kagami” (parsonsia laevigata) that contains toxin, both the larva and adult specimens are poisonous. But they are not toxic enough to cause harm if they come into contact with humans.