Overview

Brief Summary

Introduction

The "true" butterflies are composed of five families - Papilionidae, Pieridae, Nymphalidae, Riodinidae and Lycaenidae. There are estimated to be some 13,700 species extant in the world (Robbins, 1982), distributed on every continent except Antarctica, and most remote oceanic islands as well. The greatest diversity occurs in tropical regions, particularly the neotropics.

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Diversity

Diversity description:

THere are about 14,000 species of Papilionoidea. The Papilionoidea are composed of five families - Papilionidae, Pieridae, Nymphalidae, Riodinidae and Lycaenidae. The Libytheidae (sensu Ehrlich 1958) have also been considered a family but are more traditionally included in the Nymphalidae.

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Introduction

Introduction:

The "true" butterflies are composed of five families - Papilionidae, Pieridae, Nymphalidae, Riodinidae and Lycaenidae. There are estimated to be some 13,700 species extant in the world (Robbins, 1982), distributed on every continent except Antarctica, and most remote oceanic islands as well. The greatest diversity occurs in tropical regions, particularly the neotropics.

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Comprehensive Description

Characteristics

Butterflies are commonly distinguished from "moths" (an enormous paraphyletic group of which butterflies represent a derived subclade) by their diurnal activity and their clubbed antennae. In general, most day-flying Lepidoptera are butterflies, but there are some crepuscular butterfly species that are rarely encountered during the daytime, and there are also many species of moths that are active during the day (e. g., Uraniidae, Zygaenidae, Castniidae, some Arctiidae and Sphingidae). In addition, it should be noted that some moth groups, such as Castniidae and Zygaenidae, also exhibit clubbed antennae!

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Distribution

Geographical Distribution

Geographic Range:

Nearctic, Palearctic, Oriental, Ethiopian, Neotropical, Australian, Oceanic Island

Geographic Range description:

World-wide distribution with greatest diversity in the tropics.

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Physical Description

Morphology

Egg morphology

Description of egg morphology:

circular and dome-shaped, globular or bi-concave (Ackery et al 1999)

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Adult Head Morphology

Ocelli:

absent

Eyes:

smooth

Labial palpus:

porrect, upcurved

Number of labial palp segments:

from 3 to 3

Labial palpus modification:

"3-segmented, upturned or porrect, sometimes considerably elongated (some Libytheinae) or reduced" (Scoble 1992)

Maxillary palpus:

present, absent, minute

Number of maxillary palp segments:

from 0 to 2

Number of chaetosomata:

from present

Proboscis:

present

Proboscis description:

usually well developed

Female antennae:

clubbed

Male antennae:

clubbed

General antennae description:

"Antennae are clubbed, but the clubs are not extended into an apiculus" (Scoble 1992)

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Diagnostic Description

Diagnostic Characters

Other diagnostic characters:

fusion of precoxal and marginopleural sutures in the mesothorax (non-universal in Papilionoidea, widespread in Hesperiidae)).  presence of an anterior sclerite at abdominal sternite 2 (obscure especially in Papilionidae and Pieridae)

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Synapomorphies

Apomorphies:

Anepisternum of mesothorax present as a tiny sclerite, hardly discernible, or absent (Jordan, 1902; Ehrlich, 1958).  Parepisternal suture running in a straight or smoothly curved line from dorsal end to base of sternum.  Mesophragma with dorsal processes (Ehrlich, 1958).  Ventral edge of tegula attached by membrane to the mesonotum (Jordan 1928; Hering 1958).  Secodary sclerite behind metascutellum (Brock 1971)

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Ecology

Associations

Plant / pollenated
adult of Papilionoidea pollenates or fertilises flower of Gymnadenia conopsea

Plant / pollenated
adult of Papilionoidea pollenates or fertilises flower of Platanthera chlorantha

Plant / pollenated
adult of Papilionoidea pollenates or fertilises flower of Platanthera bifolia

Plant / pollenated
adult of Papilionoidea pollenates or fertilises flower of Anacamptis pyramidalis

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Known predators

Papilionoidea (butterflies) is prey of:
Icteridae
Icterus
Mimus polyglottos
Cardinalis cardinalis
Apodidae
Eremophila alpestris
Calcarius mccownii
Calcarius ornatus
Spermophilus
Calamospiza melanocorys
Asilidae
Peromyscus maniculatus
Orthoptera

Based on studies in:
USA: Arizona, Sonora Desert (Desert or dune)
USA: California, Cabrillo Point (Grassland)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • L. D. Harris and L. Paur, A quantitative food web analysis of a shortgrass community, Technical Report No. 154, Grassland Biome. U.S. International Biological Program (1972), from p. 17.
  • P. G. Howes, The Giant Cactus Forest and Its World: A Brief Biology of the Giant Cactus Forest of Our American Southwest (Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, New York; Little, Brown, Boston; 1954), from pp. 222-239, from p. 227.
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Known prey organisms

Papilionoidea (butterflies) preys on:
nectar
Bouteloua gracilis
Psoralidium tenuiflorum
Heterotheca canescens
Gutierrezia
Ratibida columnifera
Liatris punctata
Descurainia pinnata
Atriplex canescens
Elymus elymoides

Based on studies in:
USA: Arizona, Sonora Desert (Desert or dune)
USA: California, Cabrillo Point (Grassland)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • L. D. Harris and L. Paur, A quantitative food web analysis of a shortgrass community, Technical Report No. 154, Grassland Biome. U.S. International Biological Program (1972), from p. 17.
  • P. G. Howes, The Giant Cactus Forest and Its World: A Brief Biology of the Giant Cactus Forest of Our American Southwest (Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, New York; Little, Brown, Boston; 1954), from pp. 222-239, from p. 227.
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Evolution and Systematics

Evolution

Discussion of Phylogenetic Relationships

View Papilionoidea Tree

The hypothesis of relationships presented here, based on a combination of morphological and DNA characters, has been repeatedly corroborated by numerous authors (Kristensen 1976, de Jong et al. 1996, Ackery et al. 1999, Wahlberg et al. 2005).

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