Butterfly taxonomy

iNaturalist's policy for butterflies is to follow Pehlam. However, this is just a regional list so its unclear what to do with butterflies from Elsewhere. Worse still it differs from Pehlam and colleagues' All America List hosted on the same website (e.g. Papilio sensu lato vs. Pterourus and papilio sensu stricto).

This observation reveals some of the issues that come from applying regional lists to a global site like iNaturalist.

I recommend we try to find a way to come up with a more globally suitable approach to butterfly taxonomy. I think with some work, we could at least get things sorted to Genus. For example, the
Nymphalidae Systematics Group maintains a global list of Nymphalidae to genus.

Do folks know where we could find analogous global lists the remaining butterfly families to genus?
Skippers (Family Hesperiidae)
Gossamer-winged Butterflies (Family Lycaenidae)
Swallowtails and Parnassians (Family Papilionidae)
Whites, Yellows, and Sulphurs (Family Pieridae)
Metalmark Butterflies (Family Riodinidae)

Any other thoughts on how to do better for Butterfly taxonomy then we're currently doing?

Here's the analysis of top global and regional butterfliers IDers I've been making to kick these taxonomy conversations off (please ignore if butterfly taxonomy is not your thing). You are:
@nlblock, @maractwin, @juancarlosgarciamorales1, @arbutterflynut, @annemirdl, @chrisvanswaay, @sej_hdz, @robberfly, @gancw1, @aguilita, @jakob, @kostaszontanos, @fausto, @martingrimm, @wildnothos, @colin25, @reiner, @vicfazio3, @jon_sullivan, @mako252, @treichard, @greglasley, @big-simonchan, @gancw1, @marcelfinlay, @onildo_marini, @birdernaturalist, @nelson_wisnik



Publicado el 08 de enero de 2018 a las 09:49 AM por loarie loarie


I am not a taxonomist myself, so I asked Martin Wiemers and Rudi Verovnik (both responsible for the butterfly taxonomy on the FE) for their opinion. From his email (below) I get the impression both the proposal by Scott above and Martin want to follow the Wahberg taxonomy, so there might be no problem.
I simply quote the email from Martin:

I do not see the need of a new global list, because there are already such lists available, e.g. the Tree of Life website (http://tolweb.org/tree/), which is global and tries to accomodate phylogenetic results.
Unfortunately it is not complete, yet, so does not have the species for all genera (e.g. Papilio), but it is already quite good for most butterflies, especially the Nymphalidae, for which it contains the phylogenetic results by the Wahlberg group.

For those genera which are still not covered by this website, there is also Markku Savela's site: http://www.nic.funet.fi/pub/sci/bio/life/intro.html

Instead of creating a new list, I think it would be better to support the existing ones.

Anotado por chrisvanswaay hace mas de 6 años

I'm not a taxonomist either maybe @hugoalvarezg is interested.

Anotado por annemirdl hace mas de 6 años

I think it is necessary to read this article, where this scientist tells us about the situation of taxonomy in the world. It is some years old, but more or less gives us an idea of the situation.

LAMAS, G. 2008. La sistemática sobre mariposas (Lepidoptera: Hesperioidea y Papilionoidea) en el mundo: estado actual y perspectivas futuras. In Contribuciones taxonómicas en órdenes de insectos hiperdiversos ( J.L. Bousquets & A. Lanteri, eds.). Las Prensas de Ciencias, UNAM, México D.E., p.57-70.


For diurnal butterflies of America, I consider that the North and South American list, from Warren A. D. et al. 2017. Afin which is currently and will only require some modifications.

Anotado por hugoalvarezg hace mas de 6 años

Hello! I'm not overly familiar with butterflies, but I recently came across two large butterfly sources:

African Butterfly Database or ABD, maintained by the African Butterfly Research Institute and the Butterfly Research Society; the latest version (or the only version?) was released in 2016, so I believe it's fairly up to date (https://www.abdb-africa.org/)

Butterflies of India or BOI, maintained by the Indian Foundation for Butterflies; the latest version - 2.38 - was released 2018 (http://www.ifoundbutterflies.org/)

The international application for these sources is limited, but ABD and BOI might be useful when used in conjunction with the Catalogue of the Butterflies of the United States and Canada. (I also strongly encourage @loarie to check these two sources out himself.) If dependencies arise, they can be addressed here.

Anotado por bobby23 hace mas de 6 años

Hello, I'm not a taxonomist either, but I agree with the proposal of @hugoalvarezg : at least for diurnal butterflies of America, it will be best if we use the List of American Butterflies (North and South America) from Warren A. D. et al. 2017. The benefits of use this list are:

-It's more comprehensive than use only the North American list of Pelham (so, despite still being regional, at least it will be include all America, not only the North part)
-Their current work is focused there (as is noted here http://www.butterfliesofamerica.com/list.htm), so it's more likely to be updated
-The South American lepidopterofauna will be more complete here in iNat than currently is (especially for species endemic to the Neotropics)

The latter is a recurring problem that I have been having every time I identify species observed by different users in Argentina (where I live) and nearby countries. Several species aren't in the database of iNat and the tool of "searching external name provider" not always work. So I have been marking taxons for curation many times. For instance, today I found that the genus Faunula lacks of species (https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/626281-Faunula), when in Butterflies of America there are five species of Faunula (https://www.butterfliesofamerica.com/L/t/Faunula_a.htm), which is according to the primary sources. Using only the North American List of Pelham excludes exclusive Neotropical species, and is a very rich region in biodiversity.

As @hugoalvarezg said, I think it will only require some modifications.
For the remaining regions, I think that the databases that @bobby23 mentions looks good for Africa and India (and nearby countries). There is still the problem with finding a more global list, but as it have been mentioned by @chrisvanswaay earlier, maybe using the Tree of Life website (http://tolweb.org/tree/) will cover mostly of the remaining regions. It's not complete, but it will cover many regions and is global. That, and using Markku Savela's site (http://www.nic.funet.fi/pub/sci/bio/life/intro.html) as a "filler" for the missing species in the Tree of Life web.
Maby is a little complicated my propose, but I think it could work. Please let me know what you think.

Anotado por michelledelaloye hace mas de 5 años

@michelledelaloye, I agree there's some great regional references for butterflies. But iNaturalist Taxon Frameworks require global references.

Anotado por loarie hace mas de 5 años

@loarie Indeed, the best is a global reference, but I was only suggesting to use regional references until we found a global one (or until someone make it). I have been looking a little more on the web, have you looked to The Global Lepidoptera Names Index? It states that "LepIndex is essentially a computerised and updated version of the Natural History Museum's (NHM) card index archive to the scientific names of the living and fossil butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) of the world": http://www.nhm.ac.uk/our-science/data/lepindex/intro/ I have been only searching some local and endemic species but looks promising. Here is the current coverage: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/our-science/data/lepindex/intro/ One of the nice things it have is the list of synonyms and what's the valid name for each taxon. What do you think?

Anotado por michelledelaloye hace mas de 5 años

my understanding (from @hkmoths) is that LepIndex isn't well maintained. I was pushing for http://www.nic.funet.fi/pub/sci/bio/life/insecta/lepidoptera/ditrysia/papilionoidea/nymphalidae/nymphalinae/vanessa/index.html
but sounds like Roger's not a too fond of that one either

Anotado por loarie hace mas de 5 años

O.k. I'm in at the deep end again....
Funet is a secondary source - albeit a fairly comprehensive one - compiled from many primary sources (i.e. published literature).
LepIndex is indeed a good species reference, but is not updated since 2005. The binomial combinations may well be outdated (and for many of the moth families this is the case). There is, however, the Genus database that the BMNH operates, and this is more current, BUT doesn't give binomials (other than the type species).
NSG is the best site for Nymphalidae. No doubts.
I agree with Chris van Swaay, TOL is probably the best secondary global source for butterflies, though Funet is also pretty good.
As iNat currently already uses EoL and GBIF as global sources, perhaps we should be encouraging these two to get up to date with Lepidoptera taxonomy? this will require a coordinated effort to combine best regional / continental data into a useable global resource. Will take a lot of time - and I doubt anyone will be willing to participate without their time being renumerated.

Anotado por hkmoths hace mas de 5 años

here's the BMNH Lepidoptera genus database - http://www.nhm.ac.uk/our-science/data/butmoth/

Anotado por hkmoths hace mas de 5 años

@hkmoths I've seen the BMNH genus database, but as you said, it only has the type species for each genus, although the genera are more updated. For LepIndex, I've seen some of the species pages have been updated in 2011 (this for example: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/our-science/data/lepindex/detail/?taxonno=181543&&snoc=elwesi&search_type=starts&sort=snoc&indexed_from=1&page_no=1&page_size=30&path=search), so are you sure is not updated since 2005? Maybe there's some taxa updated and others not. Even so, It's still from some years ago.
Do you know if Funet is more current? I can't find when was the last update.
TOL seems to be last time updated in 2009 for some butterflies at least, so I don't know which one is the best between Funet and TOL.
The propose to combine the best regional / continental data into a global resource is worth to think, but as you said, it will take time. Maybe using as "skeleton" TOL or Funet (or even LepIndex) that are already global and filling it with the regional data? For the conflicting taxa between regional data we can choose the TOL or Funet approach. At least for the non Nymphalid groups (as it's the only group that is already globaly covered).
I take this space to resume what regional databases we have:

For diurnal butterflies:
Illustrated Lists of American Butterflies (North and South America) from Warren et al., updated 2017
African Butterfly Database from Butterfly Conservation Society 2016
Butterflies of India Kunte, K., S. Sondhi, and P. Roy (Chief Editors) 2019
Butterflies of Australia Don Herbison-Evans and Stella Crossley 2017 (http://lepidoptera.butterflyhouse.com.au/butter.html)
Butterflies of Asia (not complete) Junichi Asahi et al. 2011 (http://butterfliesofasia.com/)

For Moths only (I don't know how complete they are):
Moths of India Sondhi, S., Y. Sondhi, P. Roy and K. Kunte (eds.) 2019
Families of Moths in Australia Don Herbison-Evans and Stella Crossley 2018

A combination of both diurnal and moths:
Moths and Butterflies of Europe and North Africa by Paolo Mazzei, Daniel Morel and Raniero Panfili 2019
Moths of Asia and Japan, and Butterflies of China 2017 (http://www.jpmoth.org/~dmoth/index.html)

I will udpate this list as soon as I find more databases.

Anotado por michelledelaloye hace mas de 5 años

An updated checklist of the European Butterflies (Lepidoptera, Papilionoidea) from January 2019: https://zookeys.pensoft.net/article/28712/

Anotado por chrisvanswaay hace mas de 5 años

@michelledelaloye - many thanks for that summary.
Better keep moths out of this discussion, as that is a much bigger can of worms. I have corresponded with @loarie on this in connection with taxon frameworks - maybe Scott could provide a link to that discussion (please)? Suffice to say that there is no global consensus ! All the moth websites online are out of date (and likely always will be) regarding completeness of species lists (though some of the European sites, plus BugGuide for NA) and even more so on taxonomy. I've been struggling with the moth taxonomy on iNat for 8 years already - and could spend many lifetimes trying to get close to a synthesis of the publications and online options in place on iNat. Still many species to add. Still much understanding about the higher classification to be achieved.

Anotado por hkmoths hace mas de 5 años

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