Overview

Brief Summary

North American Ecology (US and Canada)

Agraulis vanillae is a year-round resident in a few small regions of the United States, including Calif., southern Tex. and southern Fla. It is migratory throughout much of the US (Scott 1986), and ranges south to Argentina, and the Antilles and Bahamas. Habitats are forest margins, fields, scrub, suburbs. Host plants are usually vines, and include many species restricted to one genus Passiflora (Passifloraceae). Eggs are laid on the host plant singly. There are multiple flights, year round in s. Tex., s. Fla, and s. Calif (Scott 1986). Considered synonymous with Dione vanillae by some sources (Scott 1986).
  • Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press.
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Introduction

The Gulf fritillary, Agraulis vanillae, is a widespread, geographically variable neotropical species that occurs from the south central U. S. to southern South America. Lamas (2004) lists a second, undescribed species in the genus from Peru.

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Distribution

occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Southernmost United States south through Mexico to Argentina. Also present in Hawaii. Sometimes emigrates north to Great Lakes and Rocky Mountains. Range greatly expanded with cultivation of host plants however not freeze hardy.

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Geographic Range

The Gulf Fritillary is a resident throughout the southern United States down into Mexico, Central America, the West Indies, and South America.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

The Gulf Artillary has pointed forewings and a wing span of 2.0 to 2.5 inches. The upperside of the butterfly is bright orange with brown and black markings. The underside is a deeper color with distinct elongated silver spots. Females are darker with heavier markings.

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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: Open fields, canyons, or even city gardens, with Passiflora hosts, particularly Passiflora incarnata. Not really in forest but does occur in more open southeastern pinelands. Permanent populations rquire virtually frost-free climate.

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The Gulf Fritillary prefers subtropical second growth, woodland edges, brushy fields, and city gardens.

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest

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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

The Gulf Fritillary feeds on Maypops and other passion-vine species. Passion Flower is the larval foodplant.

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

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Global Abundance

10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Males patrol for females (Scott, 1986).
  • Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press.
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Life Cycle

Life History

Early stages: Eggs are yellow and approximately 1 x 0.8 mm (h x w). Females place eggs singly on leaves of the host plant. Mature larvae are approximately 1.2 cm long. Caterpillars are gregarious in small numbers (Brown, 1981).

Agraulis vanillae larva. © David Cappaert.

Agraulis vanillae larva getting ready to pupate (left, © Jerry A. Payne, USDA ARS), pupa (center, © Katja Schulz), freshly eclosed butterfly (right, © Jerry A. Payne, USDA ARS).

Agraulis occurs in scrubs and fields. Usually individuals fly rapidly. Females mate multiply, and adults roost at night in loose groups, lower than 2 m above the ground in grass blades and leaves (Brown, 1981).

Hostplant: Agraulis is polyphagous, and larvae feed primarily on plants from the subgenera Granadilla and Distephana (Passifloraceae) (Brown, 1981).

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Reproduction

Males search for freshly emerged females. The eggs are laid singly on passion-vines. The egg of the Gulf Fritillary is yellow, oblong, and ribbed. Mature larvae are a dark brown or black with red-orange stripes and rows of complex black spines.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Agraulis vanillae

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 21 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

AAAGATATTGGTACTTTATATTTCATTTTTGGAATTTGAGCAGGAATAGTTGGAACATCTCTT---AGTATTTTAATTCGAATAGAATTAGGTAATCCTGGATCATTAATTGGTGAT---GATCAAATTTATAATACTATTGTTACAGCTCATGCATTTATTATAATTTTTTTTATAGTTATACCTATTATAATTGGAGGATTTGGTAACTGATTAGTCCCATTAATA---TTAGGAGCCCCAGATATAGCATTTCCTCGAATAAATAATATAAGATTTTGACTTCTTCCCCCGTCATTAATCTTATTAATTTCTAGAAGAATTGTAGAAAATGGAGCAGGAACAGGATGAACTGTTTATCCCCCACTTTCATCAAATATTGCTCATGGTGGTTCATCTGTAGATTTA---GCTATTTTTTCCTTACATTTAGCTGGAATTTCCTCAATTTTAGGGGCAATTAATTTTATTACCACTATTATTAATATACGAATTAATAATATATCTTTTGATCAATTACCTTTATTCGTTTGAGCTGTAGGAATTACAGCACTTCTTTTATTATTATCTCTTCCGGTTTTAGCTGGA---GCTATTACTATACTTTTAACAGATCGAAATTTAAATACATCATTTTTTGATCCTGCAGGAGGAGGAGATCCAATTTTATACCAACATTTATTTTGATTTTTTGGTCATCCTGAAGTTTATATTTTAATTTTACCGGGATTTGGAATAATTTCTCATATTATTTCTCAAGAAAGAGGAAAAAAG---GAAACTTTCGGATGTTTAGGAATAATTTATGCTATAATAGCAATTGGTTTACTTGGATTTATTGTATGAGCTCATCATATATTTACTGTAGGTATAGATATTGATACCCGAGCTTATTTTACTTCAGCTACTATAATTATTGCTGTACCTACTGGAATTAAAATTTTTAGTTGATTA---GCAACATTACACGGAA
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Agraulis vanillae

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 13
Specimens with Barcodes: 68
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Widespread and common in Neotropics. Tolerates disturbance and uses open areas.

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Threats

Degree of Threat: D : Unthreatened throughout its range, communities may be threatened in minor portions of the range or degree of variation falls within natural variation

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Management

Global Protection: Many to very many (13 to >40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

No documented examples.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

No documented examples.

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Wikipedia

Gulf fritillary

The Gulf fritillary or passion butterfly (Agraulis vanillae) is a bright orange butterfly of the family Nymphalidae and subfamily Heliconiinae. That subfamily was formerly set apart as a separate family, the Heliconiidae. The Heliconiinae are "longwing butterflies", and like other longwings this species does have long, rather narrow wings in comparison with other butterflies. It is not closely related to the true fritillaries, however. It is the only member of genus Agraulis.

Description[edit]

The Gulf fritillary is a medium to large butterfly, with a wingspan of 6–9.5 cm (2.4–3.7 in). Its underwings are buff, with large silvery spots.[1] It takes its common name from its migration over the Gulf of Mexico.

The Gulf fritillary is commonly seen in parks and gardens, as well as in open country. Its range extends from Argentina north through Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean to the southern United States, as far north as the San Francisco Bay Area on the west coast. It is occasional farther north.[2]

Larva[edit]

Life cycle

The larva is a caterpillar which grows to approximately 4 cm (1.6 in) in length. It is bright orange in color and covered in rows of black spines. The spines are soft to the touch and do not sting, but the larva is poisonous if eaten. The larva feeds exclusively on species of passionflower, such as maypop (Passiflora incarnata), yellow passionflower (P. lutea), and running pop (P. foetida).

Black and orange stripes warn predators of the toxicity of the caterpillar which protects it from predators.[3] Many birds avoid it.[4] Some specialized insects such as paper wasps and pragmatists have been observed feeding on it, however, and larger caterpillars sometimes eat smaller ones. This species belongs to the "orange" Batesian mimicry complex.

The chrysalis is approximately 3 cm (1.2 in) long. It is mottled brown and looks like a dry leaf.

The cultivation of passionflowers has enabled the Gulf fritillary to extend its range, into California, for example.

Chrysalis[edit]

Fritally minutes after it emerged from its chrysalis (aka a cocoon)

When the time comes for the caterpillar to create its chrysalis it turns a greyish color and begins to spin a silk-like substance into a ball on top or against a malleable surface. It then attaches its rear end to the "silk" lump and hangs upside down in a "j" position. By small contractions of the muscles it begins to shed its skin and head revealing a soft pinkish tan form. Quickly the soft form hardens and becomes greyish brown. The chrysalis stays in this form for eleven to twenty-one days. After that period of time, a small crack begins to form at the tip of the chrysalis revealing the butterfly's head. It continues to slowly move down through the bottom of the chrysalis until its legs are free to cling onto the shell of the chrysalis and pull itself the rest of the way out. Much like the monarch butterfly, it begins to pump the fluids from its bulging abdomen into its shriveled wings. When its wings are fully expanded it releases excess fluids from its abdomen. For the next ten to fifteen minutes it stays still and allows its wings to dry. Finally it fans its wings out and takes flight.

Gallery[edit]

Profile of wings in sunlight
Mating
Egg
Caterpillar

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rauser, C. L., & Rutowski, R. L. (2003). Male-specific structures on the wings of the Gulf fritillary butterfly, Agraulis vanillae (Nymphalidae). Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 57(4): 279–283.
  2. ^ Whan, P. W., & Belth, J. E. (1992). Second Ohio record of Agraulis vanillae (Lepidoptera, Nymphalidae). Ohio Journal of Science 92(4): 121–122.
  3. ^ Ross, G. N., Fales, H. M., Lloyd, H. A., Jones, T., Sokoloski, E. A., Marshall, B. K., et al. (2001). Novel chemistry of abdominal defensive glands of nymphalid butterfly Agraulis vanillae. Journal of Chemical Ecology 27(6): 1219–1228.
  4. ^ Pinheiro, C. E. G. (1996). Palatability and escaping ability in Neotropical butterflies: tests with wild kingbirds (Tyrannus melancholicus, Tyrannidae). Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 59(4): 351–365. HTML abstract
  • Darby, Gene (1958). What is a Butterfly. Chicago: Benefic Press. p. 36. 
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