Systematics of Neotropical Butterflies at the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, Florida Museum of Natural History

Systematics of Euptychiina

A collaborative research program on the phylogenetics, taxonomy and evolution of euptychiine butterflies

One of the richest butterfly radiations in the Neotropical lowlands is the nymphalid satyrine subtribe Euptychiina, which is also one of the three most poorly studied groups of 'true butterflies' (Papilionoidea). In fact, few other animal groups that are so taxonomically challenging are as speciose, large, conspicuous and commonly encountered by researchers, students and naturalists. Hundreds of thousands of euptychiine specimens in museum collections hold untapped data for studies in evolution, biogeography and conservation. However, we estimate that almost half of these specimens cannot be confidently identified.

More than 400 species in 42 genera are currently recognized, with at least 20% of species still undescribed, a remarkable fraction among butterflies. Molecular phylogenies suggest that Euptychia itself may not be related to remaining "euptychiines", and the generic classification is chaotic, with 65% of genera currently invalid. Modern monographs treat only five euptychiine genera (15%), with references for remaining genera now a century old. Because of their drab wing patterns, difficulties in identifying the often highly cryptic species and their sedentary life-style, most euptychiine collections are in disarray, and the biology of most species remains unstudied. In the field, however, euptychiines are a common and diverse component of communities from the rainforest to the cerrado. Reliable guides to the taxonomy and identification of euptychiines should therefore unlock the group's great potential for broader studies in evolution, ecology, biogeography and conservation.

The USA's National Science Foundation recently funded a three-year project to revise the systematics of Euptychiina, under the project title: "ARTS: Phylogeny and systematic revision of the diverse and cryptic Euptychiina (Lepidoptera, Nymphalidae, Satyrinae)" (DEB-1256742). The project has 5 main goals:

(1) to combine morphological and molecular data to produce the first 'total evidence' phylogenetic hypothesis for the subtribe, and to use this to reliably define genera;

(2) to complete monographs for the majority of the largest genera not recently revised, tentatively including: Euptychia, Taygetis, Magneuptychia, Cissia, Paryphthimoides, Pareuptychia, Erichthodes, Euptychoides, Hermeuptychia. A secondary goal is to describe, or provide support and/or data for collaborating researchers to describe, the 21+ known undescribed species in other genera;

(3) to provide training for butterfly systematists at the University of Florida and at the University of Campinas, Brazil;

(4) to use project results to test hypotheses about Euptychiina evolution;

(5) to develop collection and web-based electronic resources to facilitate communication and to build a collaborative research program on the group.

The project involves collaboration among many researchers in North and South America and Europe, and we would be pleased to hear from anyone with an interest in research on euptychiines (contact Keith Willmott at We hope to provide resources such as scannned original descriptions for euptychiine names, specimen databases, images of type and other specimens, images of morphology, DNA sequence data, and other data to facilitate research on the group. Researchers that we currently know of who have an interest in euptychiines include:

Researchers with an interest in Euptychiina
Researcher Country Main interest
Pierre BoyerFrancegeneral
Christián BrévignonFrench GuianaGuianan euptychiines
Andy BrowerUSAEuptychiina molecular phylogenetics
Marianne EspelandUSACoordinating total-evidence higher-level phylogeny, Euptychiina diversification
Steve FratelloUSAGuianan euptychiines
André FreitasBrazilgeneric revisions, phylogenetics
Blanca HuertasUnited KingdomRevision of Splendeuptychia, Colombian euptychiines
Akito KawaharaUSAEuptychiina molecular phylogenetics
Gerardo LamasPeruPeruvian euptychiines, generic revisions
Jean-François LeCromColombiaColombian euptychiines
Mario MarinColombiaEuptychiina morphological phylogenetics, revision of Pareuptychia, Moneuptychia
Olaf MielkeBrazilBrazilian euptychiines
Jackie MillerUSARevision of Taygetis
Shinichi NakaharaJapanGuianan euptychiines, revision of Euptychia
Andrew NeildUnited KingdomVenezuelan euptychiines
Carlos PeñaFinlandEuptychiina phylogenetics
Tomasz PyrczPolandAndean and southern euptychiines, Forsterinaria
Denise TanSingaporeGeneric revisions, Euptychiina behavior
Angel ViloriaVenezuelaVenezuelan euptychiines
Niklas WahlbergFinlandEuptychiina molecular phylogenetics
Haydon Warren-GashFrancegeneral
Keith WillmottUSAEcuadorian euptychiines, generic revisions
Thamara ZaccaBrazilRevision of Cissia, Paryphthimoides

Review of Euptychiina Systematics and Biology

The Satyrinae is one of the most diverse nymphalid subfamilies, with 2600 species occurring on all continents except Antarctica (Ackery et al., 1999), and the Euptychiina is an almost entirely Neotropical subtribe of the most diverse tribe, the global Satyrini (Peña & Wahlberg, 2008). Most euptychiines are small with dark brown wings marked by a few simple ocelli, although several genera have white or brilliant blue wings. The majority of euptychiines are lowland species, except for the largely Andean Forsterinaria (Peña & Lamas, 2005). Community diversity peaks in the W. Amazon, where 100 species can coexist (Lamas et al., 1991; Brown, 1996), while the Atlantic region of Brazil also has a diverse, endemic fauna. A single Asian genus, Palaeonympha, is also apparently a euptychiine (Miller, 1968; Peña et al., 2006, 2010).

Moderately detailed descriptions of early stages have been published for only 20 species (5% of the subtribe) (Müller, 1886; Singer et al., 1983; Young, 1984; Murray, 2001, 2003; Freitas, 2003, 2004a,b, 2007; Freitas & Peña, 2006; Kaminski & Freitas, 2008), and hostplant records are similarly scarce. Like most satyrines, larvae of most species feed on Gramineae, grasses and bamboo (Beccaloni et al., 2008), with some records on Cyperaceae and Marantaceae, except for Euptychia which feed on mosses and lycopsids (Singer et al., 1971; Singer & Mallet, 1986; DeVries, 1986; Brévignon, 2008). Development times are relatively long among tropical butterflies, up to three months or more (Freitas, unpub. data from > 50 species and 27 genera). Eggs are generally isolated and lack chorionic sculpturing. Larvae have bifid "tails" and may bear head horns that vary in size. Pupae are generally short, squat and smooth. Adults are rarely encountered at nectar, but often feed on decaying fruits or tree sap, and on carrion and animal feces. Some species are crepuscular (e.g. Taygetis, Murray, 2003), and males of forest species patrol territories in the understory, often on ridgetops, in the late afternoon (Peixoto & Benson, 2009; Willmott, pers. obs.). Males often bear tufts of hair-like scales or other androconia on the wings that presumably function in courtship.

The current classification includes more than 400 species (Lamas, 2004; Freitas, Willmott, unpub.; Huertas et al., 2009; Peña et al., 2010; Huertas, 2011; Pulido et al., 2011; Brévignon & Benmesbah, 2011; Matos et al., 2012; Freitas et al., 2011, 2012; Zacca et al., 2013) in 42 genera, with from 1 (10 genera) to 47 species. Remarkably, 80 (20%) of the known species are undescribed, a statistic exceeded among the true butterflies only by the Lycaenidae (34%) and Pronophilina (27%) (Lamas, 2004). Most known undescribed species are distinctive but poorly represented in historical collections, and many cryptic species (e.g. Willmott & Hall, 1995) surely remain to be discovered. For example, Miller (1974) described 11 of the 28 species of Cyllopsis, and Peña and Lamas (2005) described 12 of the 23 species in Forsterinaria. Most inventories contain undetermined species (e.g. Brévignon, 2005, 2007, 2008; Brévignon & Benmesbah, 2011), with recent fieldwork in Brazil revealing 8 new species in Yphthimoides, Splendeuptychia and Moneuptychia (Freitas 2004b, 2007). Many euptychiines are externally very similar, and some are apparently highly variable; with only five euptychiine genera (15%) the subject of modern revisions (Miller, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1978; Peña & Lamas, 2005), references for generic and species identification are urgently needed.

Miller (1968) defined the subtribe by external morphology, and molecular (Murray & Prowell, 2005; Peña et al., 2006) and morphological (Marin, 2010) studies have largely confirmed the current classification (Lamas, 2004), except for excluding Oressinoma and including Amphidecta and the Asian Palaeonympha. The position of Euptychia itself, however, is still unresolved (Murray & Prowell, 2005); the most comprehensive molecular phylogeny of Euptychiina to date (Peña et al., 2010), based on 4447 bp from 5 genes, for 108 euptychiine species and 18 outgroup taxa, did not recover a monophyletic Euptychiina. However, Marin (2010) did recover the subtribe as monophyletic and found a number of clades in common with Peña et al. (2010). A major goal of our research, therefore, will be to integrate and expand these data matrices to generate a robust higher-level phylogeny for the group.

If the relationships of Euptychiina within the Satyrini are still unclear, the generic classification is arguably the most chaotic for any butterfly group of similar diversity. Weymer (1910-11) classified the majority of Neotropical species (270 spp.) as "Euptychia", presumably because of their wing pattern homogeneity, and D'Abrera (1988) continued the trend, ignoring a large number of generic names that were introduced by Forster (1964). Forster's diagnoses were based partly on wing pattern and male genitalia, but also on overall appearance, and his characters are often unreliable. Lamas (2004) moved almost all "Euptychia" (sensu D'Abrera) into Forster's genera, which constitute 26 of the currently accepted 39 Neotropical genera. Although the Lamas classification is a critical framework for future work, recent cladistic analyses reveal much remaining paraphyly and polyphyly among genera (Murray & Prowell, 2005; Peña et al., 2006). Peña et al. (2010) tested the monophyly of 23 Euptychiina genera and found that only 8 (35%) are monophyletic. Often, supposed congeners occurred within different species groups, such as Splendeuptychia, whose species appear in the Splendeuptychia, Pareuptychia and Hermeuptychia clades. Marin (2010) found similar results using morphological characters; only 10 of 22 Euptychiina genera tested (45%) proved monophyletic. Recent taxonomic revisions based on a molecular phylogeny of the nine Taygetis-clade genera resulted in the synonymy of three genera, rearrangement of three genera and revelation of two undescribed genera (Matos et al., 2012). Based on an expanded higher-level phylogeny, we hope to revise generic limits and describe useful morphological characters for generic identification.

Literature cited

Ackery, P.R., de Jong, R., Vane-Wright, R.I. 1999. The butterflies: Hedyloidea, Hesperoidea and Papilionoidea. In: Kristensen, N.P. (Ed.), Lepidoptera: Moths and Butterflies. 1. Evolution, Systematics and Biogeography. Handbook of Zoology, vol. IV. Berlin, Walter de Gruyter. Part 35.

Beccaloni, G. W., Viloria, A. L., Hall, S. K., Robinson, G. S. 2008. Catalogue of the Hostplants of the Neotropical Butterflies / Catálogo de las Plantas Huésped de las Mariposas Neotropicales. m3m-Monografías Tercer Milenio, Volume 8. Zaragoza, Spain: Sociedad Entomológica Aragonesa (SEA)/Red Iberoamericana de Biogeografía y Entomología Sistemática (RIBES)/Ciencia y Tecnología para el Desarrollo (CYTED)/Natural History Museum, London, U. K. (NHM)/Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas, Venezuela (IVIC). 1-536 pp., 1 fig, 3 tabs.

Brévignon, C. 2005. Description de nouveau Satyrinae provenant de Guyane française (Lepidoptera, Nymphalidae). Lambillionea, 105: 393-404.

Brévignon, C. 2007. Description d'une nouvelle espèce du genre Taygetis Hübner, [1819] provenant de Guyane française (Lepidoptera, Nymphalidae, Satyrinae). Lambillionea, 107: 235-237.

Brévignon, C. 2008. Inventaire des Satyrinae de Guyane Française (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae), pp. 62-94. In: Lacomme, D., Manil, L. (Eds.), Lépidoptères de Guyane, Tome 3, Rhopalocères 2. Paris, Lepidopteristes de France.

Brévignon, C., Benmesbah, M. 2011. Complément à l'inventaire des Satyrinae de Guyane (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae), p. 36-52. In: Lacomme, D., Manil, L. (Eds.), Lépidoptères de Guyane, Tome 7, Nymphalidae. Paris, Lepidopteristes de France.

Brown, K. S., Jr. 1996. Conservation of threatened species of Brazilian butterflies. Decline and Conservation of Butterflies in Japan, 3: 45-62.

D'Abrera, B. L. 1988. Butterflies of the Neotropical Region. Part V. Nymphalidae (Conc.) & Satyridae. Victoria, Black Rock, Hill House. pp. [viii] + 679-877.

DeVries, P. J. 1986. Hostplant records and natural history notes on Costa Rican butterflies (Papilionidae, Pieridae & Nymphalidae). Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 24: 290‑333.

Forster, W. 1964. Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Insektenfauna Boliviens XIX. Lepidoptera III. Satyridae. Veröffentlichungen der zoologischen Staatssammlung München, 8: 51-188.

Freitas, A. V. L. 2003. Description of a new genus for "Euptychia" peculiaris (Nymphalidae: Satyrinae): Immature stages and systematic position. Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society, 57: 100-106.

Freitas, A. V. L. 2004a. Immature stages of Amphidecta reynoldsi (Nymphalidae: Satyrinae). Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society, 58: 53-55.

Freitas, A. V. L. 2004b. A new species of Yphthimoides (Nymphalidae, Satyrinae) from southeastern Brazil. Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society, 58: 7-12.

Freitas, A. V. L. 2007. A new species of Moneuptychia Forster (Lepidoptera: Satyrinae, Euptychiina) from the highlands of southeastern Brazil. Neotropical Entomology, 36: 919-925.

Freitas, A. V. L., Peña, C. 2006. Description of genus Guaianaza for "Euptychia" pronophila (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Satyrinae) with a description of the immature stages. Zootaxa, 1163: 49-59.

Freitas, A. V. L., Mielke, O. H. H., Moser, A., Silva-Brandão, K. L., Iserhard, C. A. 2011. A new genus and species of Euptychiina (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Satyrinae) from southern Brazil. Neotropical Entomology, 40: 231-237.

Freitas, A. V. L., Wahlberg, N., Matos-Maravi, P. F., Marín, M. A. & Mielke, O. H. H. 2012. Euptychia boulleti (Le Cerf) new combination (Nymphalidae: Satyrinae), a rare and endangered butterfly from southeastern Brazil. Neotropical Entomology, in press.

Huertas, B.. 2011. A new species of Satyrinae butterfly from Peru (Nymphalidae: Satyrini: Euptychiina). Zootaxa, 2802: 63-68.

Huertas, B., Rios, C., LeCrom, J.F.. 2009. A new species of Splendeuptychia from the Magdalena Valley in Colombia (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Satyrinae). Zootaxa, 2014: 51-58.

Kaminski, L. A., Freitas, A. V. L. 2008. Immature stages of the butterfly Magneuptychia libye (Linnaeus) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Satyrinae). Neotropical Entomology, 37: 169-172.

Lamas, G. (Ed.). 2004. Checklist: Part 4A. Hesperioidea - Papilionoidea. In: Heppner, J. B. (Ed.), Atlas of Neotropical Lepidoptera. Volume 5A. Gainesville, Association for Tropical Lepidoptera; Scientific Publishers. 430 pp.

Lamas, G., Robbins, R. K., Harvey, D. J. 1991. A preliminary survey of the butterfly fauna of Pakitza, Parque Nacional del Manu, Peru, with an estimate of its species richness. Publicaciones del Museo de Historia natural UNMSM, (A) 40: 1-19.

Marin, M. A. 2010. Relaciones filogenéticas de Euptychiina (Lepidoptera: Satyrinae) con base en características morfológicas de los adultos. Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sede Medellín, Masters Thesis. 108 pp.

Matos M., P. F., Peña, C., Willmott, K. R., Freitas, A. V. L., Wahlberg, N. 2012. Systematics and evolutionary history of butterflies in the “Taygetis clade” (Nymphalidae: Satyrinae: Euptychiina): towards a better understanding of Neotropical biogeography. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, in review.

Miller, L. D. 1968. The higher classification, phylogeny and zoogeography of the Satyridae (Lepidoptera). Memoirs of the American Entomological Society 24: [6] + iii + 174 pp.

Miller, L. D. 1972. Revision of the Euptychiini (Satyridae). 1. Introduction and Paramacera Butler. Bulletin of the Allyn Museum, 8: 1-18.

Miller, L. D. 1974. Revision of the Euptychiini (Satyridae). 2. Cyllopsis R. Felder. Bulletin of the Allyn Museum, 20: 1-98.

Miller, L. D. 1976. Revision of the Euptychiini (Satyridae). 3. Megisto Hübner. Bulletin of the Allyn Museum, 33: 1-23.

Miller, L. D. 1978. Revision of the Euptychiini (Satyridae). 4. Pindis R. Felder. Bulletin of the Allyn Museum, 50: 1-12.

Müller, W. 1886. Südamerikanische Nymphalidenraupen. Versuch eines natürlichen Systems der Nymphaliden. Zoologische Jahr-bücher (Systematik), 1: 417-678, pls. 12-15.

Murray, D. 2001. Immature stages and biology of Taygetis Hübner (Lepi-doptera: Nymphalidae). Proceedings of the entomological Society of Washington, 103: 932-945.

Murray, D. 2003. Immature stages and biology of Posttaygetis penelea Cramer (Lepidoptera: Nympalidae: Satyrinae). Proceedings of the entomological Society of Washington, 105: 548-554.

Murray, D. L., Prowell, D. P. 2005. Molecular phylogenetics and evolutionary history of the neotropical satyrine subtribe Euptychiina (Nymphalidae: Satyrinae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 34(1): 67-80.

Peixoto, P. E., Benson, W. W. 2009. Daily activity patterns of two co-occurring tropical satyrine butterflies. Journal of Insect Science, 9: 1-14.

Peña, C., Lamas, G. 2005. Revision of the butterfly genus Forsterinaria Gray, 1973 (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae, Satyrinae). Revista peruana de Biología, 12(1): 5-48.

Peña, C., Nylin, S., Freitas, A. V. L., Wahlberg, N. 2010. Biogeographic history of the butterfly subtribe Euptychiina (Lepidoptera, Nymphalidae, Satyrinae). Zoologica Scripta, 39: 243-258.

Peña, C., Wahlberg, N. 2008. Prehistorical climate change increased diversification of a group of butterflies. Biology Letters, 4: 274-278.

Peña, C., Wahlberg, N., Weingartner, E., Kodandaramaiah, U., Nylin, S., Freitas, A. V. L., Brower, A. V. Z. 2006. Higher level phylogeny of satyrine butterflies (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) based on DNA sequence data. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 40(1): 29-49.

Pulido, H.W., Andrade, M.G., Peña, C., Lamas, G. 2011. Two new taxa of Euptychia Hübner, 1818 (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Satyrinae) from the Andes of Colombia and Peru. Zootaxa, 2906: 43-51.

Singer, M. C., De Vries, P. J., Ehrlich, P. R. 1983. The Cissia confusa species-group in Costa Rica and Trinidad (Lepidoptera: Satyrinae). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 79: 101-119.

Singer, M. C., Ehrlich, P. R., Gilbert, L. E. 1971. Butterfly feeding on lycopsid. Science, 172: 1341-1342

Singer, M. C., Mallet, J. 1986. Moss-feeding by a satyrine butterfly. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera, 24: 392.

Weymer, G. 1910-1911. 4. Familie: Satyridae. In: Seitz, A. (Ed.), Die Gross-Schmetterlinge der Erde. Stuttgart, A. Kernen. 5: 185-225.

Willmott, K. R., Hall, J. P. W. 1995. Two new species of satyrines from Ecuador (Nymphalidae: Satyrinae). Tropical Lepidoptera, 6(2): 103-105.

Young, A. M. 1984. Natural history notes for Taygetis andromeda (Cramer) (Satyridae) in Eastern Costa Rica. Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society, 38: 102-113.

Zacca, T., Mielke, O. H. H., Pyrcz, T. W., Casagrande, M. M., Freitas, A. V. L., Boyer, P. 2013. Stegosatyrus, a new genus of Euptychiina from the grasslands of neotropical realm (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Satyrinae). Zootaxa 3682: 331-350.