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

Illustrated checklist of Ithomiini

The tribe Ithomiini is a large radiation of exclusively Neotropical butterflies, occurring in humid forest from sea-level to 3000m from southwestern USA to Argentina. The tribe is related to Tellervini and Danaini, together forming the subfamily Danainae, and contains approximately 370 species in some 45-50 genera and ten subtribes.

Ithomiini are becoming one of the best studied groups of neotropical butterflies. All ithomiines are unpalatable due to adult sequestration of pyrrolizidine alkaloids from several plant sources, including Asteraceae flowers and dried or withered Boraginaceae. All species are involved in extensive Müllerian mimicry rings, with one another as well as many other Lepidoptera. Identification of many species is therefore complex, and depends upon often minor differences in pattern as well as structural differences, in particular in the hindwing venation and male androconial scales.

Ithomiine systematics have been relatively well researched, at least in comparison with other Nymphalidae. Fox (1956, 1960, 1967; Fox & Real, 1971) began a series of taxonomic revisions of ithomiine genera but completed only part of the task, covering about 105 of the c. 370 species in the subfamily (Lamas, 2004). Others have further refined Fox's taxonomy (e.g. Brown, 1977, 1980; Lamas, 1979, 1988), so that our knowledge of these genera is relatively good. However, the remainder of the subfamily, mostly within the three largest subtribes, the Oleriina, Dircennina and Godyridina and dominated by largely "transparent" species inhabiting Andean cloud forests, has received little attention since Haensch's review nearly one hundred years ago (Haensch, 1909). I am therefore working with Gerardo Lamas on taxonomic revisions or reviews of a number of these genera, including: Hyalyris, Megoleria, Hyposcada, Oleria, Hyalenna, Pteronymia, Episcada, Haenschia, Godyris and Greta. Although some of these papers are well-advanced (e.g. Hyposcada), others will not appear for several years. I am therefore intending to make available here photographs of as many taxa as possible as quickly as possible, I hope for the benefit of the rapidly increasing community of "ithomiinologos".

This site is still primitive, a lot of photos are missing due to broken links that I will repair, and it is moderately comprehensive only for the genera that we are revising. In future, it will include a searchable specimen database containing photographs as well as locality data, which are currently available from all specimens (c. 45,000) in the Natural History Museum, London, and select genera in a number of world museums, and will continue to increase over the next few years. These data and photographs are the result of a three year project funded by the Leverhulme Trust at the Natural History Museum. In future, I also hope to provide keys to identification, a list of other researchers working on ithomiines and their research projects, a list of recent publications (and hopefully downloads) and any other information that seems useful on this fascinating group.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the enormous amount of work done by Fraser Simpson (UCL, London) in the digital manipulation of most of these photographs, and in entering the data for NHM specimens which form the basis of the database which will at some time be available here. A large number of others have also given time or knowledge to improve the information available here, so please contact me before publishing any images or data from this site.


The checklist here is based on several sources. It largely follows that of Lamas (2004), with additional changes to reflect recent work in genera under revision. The subtribal arrangement follows recent cladistic analyses based on morphology (Willmott & Freitas, 2006) and molecular data (Brower et al., 2006). Species and subspecies are in alphabetical order. The list includes only currently recognised taxa and does not include authors and dates of names, mainly because the main focus is on providing images, and because a digital taxonomic list of Ithomiini will soon be available (work in progress by Gerardo Lamas, Jim Mallet and George Beccaloni). Both synonyms and author information are provided by Lamas (2004). Finally note that not all listed "ssp n" and "sp n" will remain new following final taxonomic review.

Each image has the taxonomic name followed by the locality data, depository and sex of the specimen; "ALL" simply means I didn't record the sex when I took the photograph. Many photographs show the upperside of the wing on the lefthand side, and underside on the right, although a couple are reversed. Some photographs have not yet been worked on and just show the upperside.

List of recognised Ithomiini taxa

Images of Ithomiini for each subtribe




new subtribe (Athesis + Patricia)