Overview

Brief Summary

North American Ecology (US and Canada)

Megisto cymela is resident in the eastern United States and southeastern Canada (Scott 1986). Habitats are grassy wooded places from the gulf coast to lower Canadian zone, prefers shade. Host plants are grasses, known hosts are restricted to a few species: Dactylis glomerata and Eremochloa ophiuroides. Eggs are laid singly on dead or live grass, the bases of tree trunks, soil and other locations. Individuals overwinter as fourth instar larvae. There is one flight each year with the approximate flight time June 1-early July in the northern part of the range, late March-May 31 on the Gulf Coast (Scott 1986).
  • Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press.
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Distribution

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)) Eastern North America, extending: north to southern Canada, south to northern Mexico, and west to Saskatchewan, the Dakotas, and Texas.

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Geographic Range

Megisto_cymela occurs in mixed woodlands and grasslands throughout most of eastern North American, from southeastern Saskatchewan down to the southern third of Texas, and east to the Atlantic.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • Glassberg, J. 1999. Butterflies Through Binoculars: the East. New York City, New York, USA: Oxford University Press, Inc..
  • Scott, J. 1986. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford, California, USA: Stanford University Press.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Megisto_cymela is a medium-sized butterfly (wingspan 30-46 mm) with rounded wings. The upper surface of the wings and body is light tan-brown to medium brown. There are two yellow-ringed eyespots on the top of each front wing, and one similar spot on the top of each back wing (some individuals have a second indistinct spot too). The undersides of these butterflies are are lighter than the tops, with more clearly marked eyespots. Males and females have similar markings.

As in all species in the family Nymphalidae, the first pair of legs are reduced and serve only sensory functions; they walk and perch with only the other four. Also like most Satyrinae, little wood-satyrs have hearing organs ("ears") in expanded veins near the base of each front wing.

The caterpillars of this species are pale to yellow brown, and covered with many small bumps, each with a single hair. They have a strong dark stripe down the middle of the back, and brown marks along the sides. The caterpillar body ends in two stubby points, like two short tails.

Range wingspan: 30 to 46 mm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: Shaded or brushy situations with grasses and barrens and oak savannas with heavy cover of CAREX PENSYLVANICA. Readily occurs in open woodlands of many kinds, but in truly forested situations this is an edge species.

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The little wood-satyr lives where grasses and trees grow together: along edges of forest, in open woodlands, and in meadows near trees. The species is most populous where this habitat is combined with relatively alkaline soils. Larvae live on the grasses they eat, and probably hibernate in leaf litter. Adults tend to fly close to cover, especially in open fields. Males patrol for females, but tend to stay in shade.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest

Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural

  • Douglas, M., J. Douglas. 2005. Butterflies of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA: University of Michigan Press.
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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

Caterpillars of Megisto_cymela have been found eating several grass species in the wild: Kentucky bluegrass (Poa_pratensis), orchardgrass (Dactylis_glomerata), centipede grass (Eremochloa_ophiuroides), and St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum_secundatum). They may eat other kinds of grass as well, but not broad-leaved plants.

Adults feed mainly on sap flows from trees, the "honeydew" secretions of Aphididae, and fluids from decaying mushrooms. They only occasionally take nectar from flowers.

Plant Foods: leaves; nectar; sap or other plant fluids

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Associations

Flowering Plants Visited by Megisto cymela in Illinois

Megisto cymela Cramer: Nymphalidae, Lepidoptera
(observations are from Robertson and Graenicher; this butterfly is the Little Wood Satyr)

Anacardiaceae: Rhus glabra [stam sn] (Rb); Caprifoliaceae: Symphoricarpos albus sn (Gr); Lamiaceae: Pycnanthemum tenuifolium sn (Rb); Rutaceae: Ptelea trifoliata sn (Rb); Smilacaceae: Smilax herbacea [stam sn][unsp sn] (Rb, Gr)

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Ecosystem Roles

This species has no known mutualist partners. Unlike some other butterflies, it is not an important pollinator. Sometimes M._cymela is a very common butterfly species, and then it might be an important food source for some insect-eating predators.

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Predation

We have no specific information on the predators of Megisto_cymela. The species is not known to have any chemical defenses, but apparently relies on camouflage coloring and its powers of flight to avoid predators. Consequently, any insectivorous animal might prey upon them.

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

Comments: Very abundant in proper habitat.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Adult little wood-satyrs use vision mainly to detect movement (of predators or con-specifics). In common with many insect eyes, their eyes can detect polarized light. They can "smell" with their antennae, and use special chemicals to help them find mates. They also use smell and tast to locate the plants that their larvae will feed on. They most likely have taste receptors in their mouth that sense sugars and other nutrients in their food. This species and some of its relatives in the Satyrinae are unusual among butterflies in having an sound-detecting structure (an "ear") in the veins near the base of their front wings. It's not clear what they are hearing with this structure, probably predator sounds. They do not use sound to communicate with each other.

Caterpillars have very poor vision, and no antennae. They probably do have a strong sense of taste, and some sense of smell. They may be sensitive to vibrations as well.

Communication Channels: visual ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones

Perception Channels: visual ; polarized light ; tactile ; acoustic ; vibrations ; chemical

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Adults feed on sap and aphid honeydew, occasionally on flower nectar. Males patrol for females (Scott, 1986).
  • Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press.
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Life Cycle

Development

Like most insects, the timing of little wood-satyr development is strongly affected by temperature. Eggs are laid by females in spring or summer. Caterpillars hatch and begin feeding immediately. They shed their skin three times before the end of the growing season. If the climate requires it, they will hibernate as while still in the caterpillar stage. In the spring, the caterpillar transforms into a pupa, hanging itself head down for a few weeks while it transforms itself into the adult form. The adult emerges in spring or summer, and only lives a few months at most.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Longevity of this species has not been reported. Since adults cannot survive freezing temperatures, individual little wood-satyrs probably do not live for more than about 16 months.

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Reproduction

Adults seek mates within a day or two of emergence. Males usually emerge shortly before before females, and establish flight territories along the edges of stands of trees and shrubs. They perch in shady spots, and also patrol their patch of edge, looking for females to court. Males will try to chase away other males from their territory. We have no information on the mating system in this species, but it is likely that both males and females have multiple mates.

Female little wood-satyrs lay eggs singly, each one on or near the grasses that their larvae will eat, but separate from other eggs.

Breeding season: Little wood-satyrs lay eggs throughout their adult life, which typically lasts for a month or two in late spring or summer.

Key Reproductive Features: semelparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous

Butterflies do not take care of their young after the eggs are laid. The females carefully lay their eggs on or near the plants their young need to eat, and they put some stored food in the eggs for the developing young caterpillars. After they lay their eggs they leave.

Parental Investment: pre-fertilization (Provisioning); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Male)

  • Douglas, M., J. Douglas. 2005. Butterflies of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA: University of Michigan Press.
  • Scott, J. 1986. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford, California, USA: Stanford University Press.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Megisto cymela

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


There are 10 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.

AAAGNTATTGGGANNTTATATTTTATTTTTGGAATTTGAGCAGGTATAGTAGGGACATCCTTT---AGATTAATTATTCGAATAGAATTAGGTAATCCAGGATTTTTAATTGGAGAT---GATCAAATTTATAATACTATCGTTACAGCTCATGCTTTTATTATAATTTTTTTTATAGTAATACCAATTATAATTGGAGGATTTGGTAATTGATTAGTTCCATTAATA---TTAGGAGCTCCTGATATAGCTTTTCCTCGTATAAATAATATAAGATTTTGATTATTACCTCCTTCATTAATTTTATTAATTTCAAGAAGTATTGTAGAAAATGGAGCTGGTACAGGATGAACAGTTTACCCACCCCTTTCATCTAATATTGCCCATAGAGGATCTTCTNTAGATCTA---GCAATTTTCTCTTTACATTTAGCTGGAATTTCTTCAATTTTAGGAACTATTAACTTTATTACAACAATTATTAATATACGAATTAATAATATATCTTATGATCAAATACCTTTATTTGTTTGAGCTGTTGGAATTACTGCTCTTCTTTTACTTCTTTCTTTACCTGTTTTAGCTGGA---GCTATTACTATANNNCTTACAGATCGAAATTTAAATACTTCTTTTTTTGATCCTGCTGGAGGAGGNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNTTGATTTTTTGGNCACCCAGAAGTNTATATTTTAATTTTACCTGGATTTGGTATAATTTCTCATATTATTTCACAAGAAAGTGGAAAAAAG---GAAACTTTTGGTTGTTTAGGAATAATTTATGCTATGTTAGCTATTGGTTTATTAGGATTTATTGTATGAGCTCATCATATATTTACAGTAGGAATAGATATTGATACTCGTGCATATTTTACATCAGCTACTATAATTATTGCAGTACCAACTGGTATTAAAATTTTTAGTTGATTA---GCAACTCTTCACGGAA
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Megisto cymela

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 11
Specimens with Barcodes: 47
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

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

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This is a common and sometimes abundant species in most of its range. It is not considered in need of special conservation efforts or legal protection.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: not evaluated

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

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Megisto cymela on humans.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

This species has no direct economic benefits for humans. It is however a common butterfly in many inhabited areas, so may add value to the environment. It may also be an important food item for desirable animals, such as songbirds.

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Wikipedia

Megisto cymela

The Little Wood Satyr (Megisto cymela) is a species of Satyrinae that occurs in North America.

Description[edit]

Ventral view
Adult

The wingspan is 29–48 mm. The forewing has two yellow-rimmed black spots on both sides, dorsal and ventral. The hindwing has two spots on the dorsal side but have smaller spots on the ventral. The other all color is light brown.

Caterpillar

The body is light greenish-brown with a dark dorsal line and alternating brown and yellowish lateral stripes. The surface of the caterpillar has bumps, these bumps bear short reddish-brown hairs. The head is dirty white while the tail hairs are light gray.

Range & Habitat[edit]

They are seen in the eastern United States and southeastern Canada, Nova Scotia south into Florida west to Texas, Saskatchewan, and Wyoming. As the name implies the Little Wood Satyr is most commonly seen in woods and shrubby areas.

Life cycle[edit]

Adults in the northern portions of their range fly between June and July while their southern populations fly between March and September. Adults have a slow "bouncing" flight but they will rise as far as the top of tall trees. Females lay eggs singly on grass, the fourth-instar caterpillars hibernate.

Larval foods[edit]

Adult foods[edit]

References[edit]

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Could be two separate G5 species, or maybe the species is just dimorphic for overwintering instar in much of its range. Perhaps additional sibling species.

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