Overview

Brief Summary

Introduction

Introduction:

Pieridae are the sulphurs and whites, medium-sized mostly pale-colored butterflies with a world-wide distribution. There are some 1100 species.

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Diversity

Diversity description:

This family is composed of about 1051 species in 76 genera. The most speciose genera are: Colotis, Delias, Colias, Catasticta, Eurema and Belenois.

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Introduction

Pieridae are the sulphurs and whites, medium-sized mostly pale-colored butterflies with a world-wide distribution. There are some 1100 species.

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Comprehensive Description

Pieridae (White and Sulfur Butterflies)
These small- to medium-sized butterflies fall into two major subfamilies, which will be described. Pierinae (Whites): The White butterflies have white wings with black dots or bars. A few species, such as the Marbles and Orangetips, have greenish yellow or bright orange patterns on their wings. The larvae are predominantly green, and feed almost exclusively on members of the Mustard family. The green or brown pupae are slung from a stem with a silk girdle. Adult Whites often nectar at the flowers of members of the Mustard family. Coliadinae (Sulfurs): The Sulfur butterflies have yellow or orange-yellow wings, with black bars or dots. Their caterpillars are green, often with pale white or yellow lateral stripes. They feed on various legumes (Bean family). Some species do not successfully overwinter in central or northern Illinois, such as Colias cesonia (Dogface Sulfur), but migrate northward during the summer from areas in the southern United States. They are important visitors of some prairie wildflowers.

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Nomenclature

The name Pieridae is attributed to Duponchel, 1835, in the Official List of Family Names, but J. Pelham (pers. comm.) points out that Swainson employed the name for a family-level group some 15 years prior, and argues that priority should be observed.

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Distribution

Geographic Range

There are over 1,100 species in this family, and they are found all over the world. There are 58 species in the U.S., and we have 17 different species in Michigan.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Introduced , Native ); palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native ); ethiopian (Native ); neotropical (Native ); australian (Native ); oceanic islands (Introduced , Native )

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Geographical Distribution

Geographic Range:

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

Geographic Range description:

World-wide distribution, almost. New Zealand lacks native species.

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Adult butterflies in this family are nearly all white or yellow, which is where they get their name. Their wings may have a few dark spots, or a dark edge, but they don't have many stripes or spots. They are medium-sized butterflies, with all six legs fully developed. In some species the color of adults is affected by the temperature when they pupated. Cooler temperatures usually produce darker colors.

Some species of Whites feed on plants in the mustard family that have toxic chemicals for protection. The caterpillars store the toxins in their body to discourage predators from eating them. Some other species of Whites may be mimicking the toxic ones by having similar wing colors and patterns.

The caterpillars in this group are mostly green or yellow and cylinder-shaped, and are covered with fine hairs or little black bumps.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike; female larger

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Egg morphology

Color:

Often white, yellow, orange or red.

Texture:

ridged

Orientation:

upright

Egg mass pattern:

Eggs are usually laid singly but also (in rare cases) laid in small groups (Scoble 1992).

Description of egg morphology:

Pierid eggs are spindle-shaped (Ackery et al 1999).  From Scoble 1992: "Eggs are upright and fusiform with vertical ridges and horizontal cross-ribs."

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Larvae Morphology

Secondary setae:

present

Larval body description:

Cylindrical larvae with no obvious protuberances (Ackery et al 1999).  "Larvae are covered with numerous short and fine secodary setae." (Scoble 1992) Many species are cryptic, usually green or brown, and patterned with longitudinal stripes (Ackery et al 1999). Other species are aposematic (Scoble 1992)

Larval abdomen description:

"Each abdomial segment is divided, typically into six annulets." (Scoble, 1992)

Crochet arrangement description:

"Crochets are arranged in a biordinal or triordinal mesoseries." (Scoble 1992)

Anal comb on A10:

present

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Pupa/Cocoon morphology

Pupa description:

Pupae are girdled.

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Adult Thorax Morphology

Epiphysis:

absent

Number of tibial spurs foreleg:

from 0

Number of tibial spurs midleg:

from 2

Number of tibial spurs hindleg:

from 2

Leg description:

Pretarsal claws are bifid.

Wing venation??description:

From Scoble, 1992:  "In the forewing, one or more branches of Rs may be absent. In the hindwing, the humeral vein may be present or absent and vein Sc+R1 diverges from Rs at the base."

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Adult Head Morphology

Eyes:

smooth

Labial palpus:

porrect, upcurved

Maxillary palpus:

present, absent

Number of maxillary palp segments:

from 1

Female antennae:

clubbed

Male antennae:

clubbed

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Diagnostic Description

Synapomorphies

Apomorphies:

Lateral plates of pronotum not fused medially.  Foretarsus with distinctly bifid claws.  Outer edge of forewing third axillary with tooth.  Pterin pigments in wing scales

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Ecology

Habitat

These butterfly species can be found in open areas wherever their food plants occur. Some species live in the Arctic tundra, others in tropical jungle. They are most common in places with lots of plant growth, but some feed on desert plants, and some in high rocky mountains. They feed on leafy weeds and herbs and vegetables, not trees, so they are most common in meadows and open areas, not forests.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; polar ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: tundra ; taiga ; desert or dune ; chaparral ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest ; mountains

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp ; bog

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Caterpillars of whites and sulfurs eat the leaves and flowers of plants. Most species only eat plants in the mustard family (including cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, and related vegetables) or in the bean family (including alfalfa and peas).

Adults sip flowers for nectar and mud for minerals and water.

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Adults are pollinators, caterpillars can be important herbivores, limiting some plant populations.

Ecosystem Impact: pollinates

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Predation

Caterpillars hide, and have camouflage colors. A few species make nests of silk to hide in.

Adults fly during the day, and hide at night.

Some species collect toxic chemicals from their food plants.

They may have toxic chemicals from their food

Known Predators:

  • Aves
  • Soricidae (eat pupae)
  • Sigmodontinae (eat pupae)
  • Anura (eat adults)
  • Araneae, especially crab spiders and orb-weavers (eat adults)
  • Formicidae (eat caterpillars)
  • Hymenoptera (eat caterpillars and adults)
  • mantids (eat adults)
  • Diptera (eat caterpillars)
  • Coccinellidae (eat eggs)
  • Chrysopidae (eat eggs)
  • Acari (eat eggs)

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

These butterflies communicate mainly with their scent and their colors. Males attract mates with scent and display, and females leave a scent mark on plants where they have laid eggs.

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Life Cycle

Development

Like all butterflies, these have complete metamorphosis. The caterpillars that hatch from the eggs eat and grow fast. They do not make a coccoon, but do attach themselves to plants with silk threads. Species in cold climates hibernate as caterpillars or pupae, and may have more than one generation over the summer.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Most only live for about a year or less, but some cold-climate species may live for two. These animals only live for a short time (a few days or weeks) as adults, they spend most of their lives in the immature stages. Some species can complete more than one generation a year, so individuals are only living for a few months.

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Reproduction

After mating, the females in these species lay hundreds of eggs. They place the eggs one per leaf on the underside of the leaf. They only lay eggs on the plants their offspring need to eat (see Food Habits).

Breeding season: Spring, Summer, and Early Fall.

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

These insects do not take care of their offspring.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement

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Life History: Immature Stages

Larval food items include:

Brassicaeceae.  Fabaceae.  Capparidacea.  Loranthaceae.  Other plant groups

Larval food habits description:

"Larvae feed particularly on Brassicaeceae and Fabaceae" (Scoble, 1992)

Description of egg life history:

Eggs are laid on the foodplant (Scoble 1992).

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Evolution and Systematics

Evolution

Systematic and taxonomic history

Systematic and taxonomic history:

The phylogenetic position of the Pieridae is uncertain and needs further study. Two conflicting hypotheses have been proposed:  1. Pieridae is the sister group of Papilionidae (supported by characters described in Scott and Wright 1990);  2. Pieridae is the sister taxon to (Nymphalidae+Lycaenidae) - supporting characters described in Kristensen, 1976.

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Fossil Record

Fossil record:

There are several fossil specimen known; information on these is entered into the LepTree  fossil database under Pieridae.  These fossil specimen are:  Belenois crawshayi Butler Coliates proseripina Scudder, 1875 Oligodonta florissantensis Brown, 1976 Pierites sp. (Branscheid, 1968, 1969) Pierites sp. (Branscheid, 1969) Pierites sp. (Kernbach, 1967) Pontia freyeri (Heer, 1849) Stolopsyche libytheoides Scudder, 1889  And several possible Pieridae fossils: Miopieris talboti Zeuner, 1942 sp. (Richter & Storch, 1980)

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records:10665
Specimens with Sequences:9672
Specimens with Barcodes:8944
Species:943
Species With Barcodes:870
Public Records:3596
Public Species:493
Public BINs:362
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Barcode data

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Conservation

Conservation Status

None of the White or Sulphur species in the U.S. are considered endangered.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

One species of White, the Cabbage Butterfly (Pieris  rapae) was accidentally brought to North America from Europe. It is a major pest on vegetables. Some native species eat alfalfa crops and other peas and beans.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Caterpillars of some species in this family eat plants that are weeds.

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Wikipedia

Pieridae

The Pieridae are a large family of butterflies with about 76 genera containing approximately 1,100 species, mostly from tropical Africa and tropical Asia.[1] Most pierid butterflies are white, yellow or orange in coloration, often with black spots. The pigments that give the distinct colouring to these butterflies are derived from waste products in the body and are a characteristic of this family.[2]

It is believed that the name "butterfly" originated from a member of this family — the Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni — which was called the "butter-coloured fly" by early British naturalists.[2]

The sexes usually differ, often in the pattern or number of the black markings.

The larvae (caterpillars) of a few of these species, such as Pieris brassicae and Pieris rapae, commonly seen in gardens, feed on brassicas, and are notorious agricultural pests.

Males of many species exhibit gregarious mud-puddling behavior when they may imbibe salts from moist soils.[1]

Classification[edit]

The Pieridae have the radial vein on the forewing with 3 or 4 branches and rarely with 5 branches. The fore legs are well developed in both sexes, unlike in the Nymphalidae, and the tarsal claws are bifid unlike in the Papilionidae.[3]

Like the Papilionidae, Pieridae also have their pupae held at an angle by a silk girdle, but running at the first abdominal segment unlike the thoracic girdle seen in the Papilionidae.

Subfamilies[edit]

The Pieridae are generally divided into the following four subfamilies:

According to the molecular phylogenetic study of Braby et al. (2006), sister group relationships among Pieridae subfamilies are: ((Dismorphiinae+Pseudopontiinae)+(Coliadinae+Pierinae)).

Some popular species[edit]

Psyche Butterfly, Leptosia nina

Some pest species[edit]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e DeVries P. J. in Levin S.A. (ed) 2001 The Encyclopaedia of Biodiversity. Academic Press.
  2. ^ a b Carter, David, Butterflies and Moths (2000)
  3. ^ Borror, D. J., Triplehorn, C. A., & Johnson, N. F. (1989). An introduction to the study of insects (6th ed.). Philadelphia: Saunders College Publishers. ISBN 0-03-025397-7

References[edit]

  • Braby, M. F. 2005. Provisional checklist of genera of the Pieridae (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). Zootaxa 832: 1–16.
  • Braby, M., R. Vila, and N. E. Pierce. 2006. Molecular phylogeny and systematics of the Pieridae (Lepidoptera: Papilionoidea: higher classification and biogeography. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 147(2): 239-275.
  • Carter, David. 2000. Butterflies and Moths (2/ed). Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-2707-7.
  • A New Subspecies of Eurema andersoni (Lepidoptera: Pieridae) from South India, O YATA, H GAONKAR - Entomological science, 1999 - ci.nii.ac.jp

Further reading[edit]

  • Glassberg, Jeffrey Butterflies through Binoculars, The West (2001)
  • James, David G. and Nunnallee, David Life Histories of Cascadia Butterflies (2011)
  • Pyle, Robert Michael The Butterflies of Cascadia (2002)
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