Overview

Brief Summary

North American Ecology (US and Canada)

Polygonia comma is a resident of the eastern United States and southeastern Canada, and is somewhat migratory outside that range (Scott 1986). Habitats are woods and suburbs. Host plants are vines and herbs and known hosts are limited to a few species from several families including Moraceae, Ulmaceae, and Urticaceae. Eggs are laid on the host plant singly or in stacks up to nine in a pile. Individuals overwinter as adults. There are variable numbers of flights each year depending on latitude, there are one or two flights, between late June and Late Aug., in the southern part of their range there are probably three flights (Scott 1986).
  • Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press.
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Distribution

Polygonia comma lives in the eastern half of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains from southeast Canada to central Texas and the Gulf Coast.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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)) Saskatchewan east to Canadian Maritime Provinces and south to central Georgia, E. Colorado.

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Geographic Range

Polygonia_comma lives in the eastern half of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains from southeast Canada to central Texas and the Gulf Coast.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Physical Description

Morphology

The eggs of P. comma are pale green and the larva can be a variety of color combinations, such as; greenish-white or cream-white, greenish-brown or black with yellow black-tipped spines, or red-brown with a dull pink or black head. The pupa is dark mottled brown (with yellower patches) or brown (with a dark lateral line and greenish streaks) or white (with a little yellow-brown coloring); all with gold or silver spots in the saddle. The actual butterflies of this species are characterized by their small to medium-sized and irregularly notched anglewings, the concave curvature and deeply indented outer margin of the forewing, and the taillike extensions on the hindwing. The dorsal forewing and dorsal hindwing are brownish orange with black markings, while the underside of the wings are darker and closely resemble a dead leaf. Polygonia comma are distinguished from the others in the genus by the small C-shaped silvery spot on the underside of the hind wing.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

  • Borror, D., D. De Long, C. Triplehorn. 1981. An Introduction to the Study of Insects. Philadelphia: CBS College Publishing.
  • Scott, J. 1986. The Butterflies of North America: A Natural History and Field Guide. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
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Physical Description

The eggs of Polygonia comma are pale green and the larva can be a variety of color combinations, such as; greenish-white or cream-white, greenish-brown or black with yellow black-tipped spines, or red-brown with a dull pink or black head. The pupa is dark mottled brown (with yellower patches) or brown (with a dark lateral line and greenish streaks) or white (with a little yellow-brown coloring); all with gold or silver spots in the saddle. The actual butterflies of this species are characterized by their small to medium-sized and irregularly notched anglewings, the concave curvature and deeply indented outer margin of the forewing, and the taillike extensions on the hindwing. The dorsal forewing and dorsal hindwing are brownish orange with black markings, while the underside of the wings are darker and closely resemble a dead leaf. Polygonia_comma are distinguished from the others in the genus by the small C-shaped silvery spot on the underside of the hind wing.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

  • Borror, D., D. De Long, C. Triplehorn. 1981. An Introduction to the Study of Insects. Philadelphia: CBS College Publishing.
  • Scott, J. 1986. The Butterflies of North America: A Natural History and Field Guide. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
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Ecology

Habitat

Polygonia comma can be found in deciduous woodlands; woods near rivers, marshes, swamps, and other water sources.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

Wetlands: swamp

Other Habitat Features: riparian

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Comments: A migratory species that can turn up with any stand of foodplants such as hops, nettles, but typically near trees. Winter and early spring (November-March) adults are generally seen in forests, often many kilometers from foodplants, suggesting these serve as hibernation sites.

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Polygonia_comma can be found in deciduous woodlands; woods near rivers, marshes, swamps, and other water sources.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

Wetlands: swamp

Other Habitat Features: riparian

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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

Some of the larvae feed on nettles or hop-vine while others feed on elms, willows, or hazels. However, adults feed on rotting fruit, tree sap, and only rarely nectar.

Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems; sap or other plant fluids

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Lignivore, Eats sap or other plant foods)

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Food Habits

Some of the larvae feed on nettles or hop-vine while others feed on elms, willows, or hazels. However, adults feed on rotting fruit, tree sap, and only rarely nectar.

Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems; sap or other plant fluids

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Associations

Known Predators:

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Flowering Plants Visited by Polygonia comma in Illinois

Polygonia comma Harris: Nymphalidae, Lepidoptera
(observations are from Graenicher and Robertson; this is the Eastern Comma butterfly)

Aceraceae: Acer saccharum [oozing sap] (Rb); Asteraceae: Antennaria neglecta [unsp sn] (Gr), Aster drummondii sn (Gr), Aster lanceolatus sn (Gr), Eupatoriadelphus purpureus sn (Gr), Solidago juncea sn (Gr)

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Predation

Known Predators:

  • birds (Aves)

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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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

Communication Channels: tactile ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones

Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Communication and Perception

Communication Channels: tactile ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones

Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Adults feed on sap and fruit, rarely flower nectar. Males perch for females (Scott, 1986).
  • Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press.
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Reproduction

Overwintered adults emerge in early spring and lay quickly maturing eggs that produce a "summer" generation of darker-colored adults. The new generation will in turn lay eggs that mature even more quickly to produce the lighter-colored adults. These adults emerge in the fall and, crawling beneath a piece of bark, hibernate to re-emerge as the "spring" adults. In warmer climates it is common for the species to try and squeeze a third, or perhaps even a fourth, generation into the summer cycle. However, not all the offspring of a "spring" female in a bivoltine species develop into "summer" adults. Some will skip the double-hatching cycle entirely and emerge as "spring/fall" adults ready to go into hibernation. On the other hand, if the weather is too cold and there is too little sunshine, a larger proportion of the butterflies will opt for a single hatching. This often occurs in the more northerly latitudes.

During the second summer generation of -commas-, it is important that the caterpillars mature quickly to avoid potential frost and inclement weather. When the eggs are laid on the plants that the caterpillars feed on, they tend to mature more rapidly. Therefore, the female P. comma prefer to lay their eggs on those plants on which the caterpillars feed. The caterpillars on the "preferred" plants usually mature in 21-23 days with a 89-100% survival rate. However, on the "not preferred" plants the caterpillars usually take approximately 31-42 days to mature with only a 0-60% survival rate.

Key Reproductive Features: semelparous ; sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous

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Overwintered adults emerge in early spring and lay quickly maturing eggs that produce a "summer" generation of darker-colored adults. The new generation will in turn lay eggs that mature even more quickly to produce the lighter-colored adults. These adults emerge in the fall and, crawling beneath a piece of bark, hibernate to re-emerge as the "spring" adults. In warmer climates it is common for the species to try and squeeze a third, or perhaps even a fourth, generation into the summer cycle. However, not all the offspring of a "spring" female in a bivoltine species develop into "summer" adults. Some will skip the double-hatching cycle entirely and emerge as "spring/fall" adults ready to go into hibernation. On the other hand, if the weather is too cold and there is too little sunshine, a larger proportion of the butterflies will opt for a single hatching. This often occurs in the more northerly latitudes.

During the second summer generation of -commas-, it is important that the caterpillars mature quickly to avoid potential frost and inclement weather. When the eggs are laid on the plants that the caterpillars feed on, they tend to mature more rapidly. Therefore, the female Polygonia comma prefer to lay their eggs on those plants on which the caterpillars feed. The caterpillars on the "preferred" plants usually mature in 21-23 days with a 89-100% survival rate. However, on the "not preferred" plants the caterpillars usually take approximately 31-42 days to mature with only a 0-60% survival rate.

Key Reproductive Features: semelparous ; sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Polygonia comma

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


There are 6 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.

TGAGCAGGAATAGTAGGAACATCTCTT---AGTCTATTAATTCGAACTGAATTAGGAAATCCAGGATCTTTAATTGGAGAT---GATCAAATTTATAATACAATTGTCACAGCTCATGCTTTTATTATAATTTTTTTTATAGTTATACCTATTATAATTGGAGGATTTGGTAATTGATTAATTCCATTAATA---CTAGGAGCACCAGATATAGCTTTTCCACGAATAAATAATATAAGATTCTGACTCCTTCCCCCCTCATTATTTTTATTAATTTCTAGTAGAATTGTNGAAAATGGAGCAGGAACAGGATGAACAGTTTATCCCCCACTTTCTTCTAATATTGCTCATAGAGGATCTTCAGTAGATTTA---GCAATTTTTTCACTACATTTAGCTGGAATTTCATCAATTTTAGGAGCTATTAATTTTATTACAACTATTATTAATATGCGAATTAATAATATATCTTTTGATCAAATACCTTTATTCGTATGAGCTGTAGGTATCACAGCTTTACTTTTATTACTTTCTTTACCTGTTTTAGCTGGA---GCTATTACTATACTTTTAACAGATCGTAATATTAATACATCATTTTTTGATCCTGCAGGAGGAGGAGATCCTATTTTATATCAACATTTATTTTGATTTTTTGGTCANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNACCANGATTTGGAATAATTTCACATATTATTTCTCAAGAAAGAGGAAAAAAA---GAAACTTTTGGATGTTTAGGAATAATTTATGCTATAATAGCAATTGGATTATTAGGATTTATTGTATGAGCACATCATATATTTACAGTAGGTATAGATATTGATACTCGAGCTTACTTTACTTCAGCAACAATAATTATTGCAGTACCTACAGGTATTAAAATTTTTAGTTGATTA---GCAACTTTACATGGAACA---CAAATTAATTATAGACCTTCTATATTATGAAGATTAGGATTCATTTTTTTATTTACTGTAGGAGGATTAACAGGAGTTATTTTAGCTAATTCATCCATTGATATTACTCTTCATGATACTTACTATGTAGTAGCCCACTTTCATTATGTT---TTATCCATAGGGGCTGTATTTGCTATTATAGGAGGATTTATTCATTGATATCCATTATTTACCGGACTAATAATAAATAATTATTTATTAAAAATTCAATTTATTTCTATATTTATCGGTGTTAATTTAACTTTCTTCCCACAACATTTTTTAGGATTAGCAGGTATACCTCGA---CGATACTCAGATTATCCTGATAGATTTATA---TCATGAAATATTATTTCTTCATTTGGATCTTATATTTCACTTTTATCTATAATAATAATAATTATTACAATTTGAGAATCAATAATTAACCACCGAATTATT---TTATTTTCATTAAATATACCATCATCT
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Polygonia comma

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 6
Specimens with Barcodes: 10
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Polygonia comma is not listed as endangered or threatened.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Widespread, abundant, tolerates disturbance.

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Polygonia_comma is not listed as endangered or threatened.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: no special status

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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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

Since P. comma larvae feed on plants, they are often serious pests of cultivated plants and stored grain or meal. In addition, however, the members of this species have also been known to occasionally feed on various fabrics.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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The adults of this species are quite beautiful and are therefore sought after by collectors. These butterflies also produce silk and often serve as inspiration for art and designs.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Since Polygonia comma larvae feed on plants, they are often serious pests of cultivated plants and stored grain or meal. In addition, however, the members of this species have also been known to occasionally feed on various fabrics.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The adults of this species are quite beautiful and are therefore sought after by collectors. These butterflies also produce silk and often serve as inspiration for art and designs.

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Wikipedia

Polygonia comma

The Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma) is a North American butterfly in the family Nymphalidae, subfamily Nymphalinae.

Description[edit]

Showing upperside of wings

This butterfly is seasonally variable. The upper side of the summer forms hind wings are all black, whereas the winter forms hind wings are reddish-orange. The underside of both forms is striped with dark and light brown. There is a silvery comma mark in the middle of the hindwing in both forms. Its wingspan is 4.5–6.4 cm (1.8–2.5 in).

Habitat[edit]

The Eastern Comma may be spotted in woods near rivers, ponds, marshes, swamps, and other water sources.

Nectar Plants[edit]

This butterfly seldom visits flowers, but rather feeds on sap, rotting fruit, salts and minerals from puddling, and dung.

Host Plants[edit]

False Nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica), Hops (Humulus), Wood Nettle (Laportea canadensis) American Elm (Ulmus americana), and Nettle (Urtica).

Life cycle[edit]

The green eggs are laid singly or in stacks under host plants leaves and stems. The spiny larva varies in color from pale green to yellow to white and to even black. The solitary larva feeds on leaves at night. Older larvae construct daytime leaf shelters by pulling a single leaf together with silk. The chrysalis is brown and covered with spines. Winter form adults overwinter, some will also migrate south for the winter.

Similar Species[edit]

The dark form of comma is frequently confused with the dark form of the Question Mark (N. interrogationis), but the two can readily be distinguished by the shape of the comma mark on the underside. The pale form is easily confused with the Satyr Comma (N. satyrus), which usually occurs north and west of the Eastern Comma's range. They can be distinguished by the upperside colour, which is orange brown in comma and tawny yellowish brown in satyrus; by the underside pattern, which tends to be mottled in comma but appears to be more longitudinally streaked in satyrus; and by the row of pale submarginal spots on the hindwing upperside, which tend to be separate and surrounded by dark shading in comma, but are larger and tend to run together into a pale band in satyrus.

References[edit]

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Closest to POLYGONIA SATYRUS.

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