Comments on the proposed designation of a neotype for the nominal species Chionobas chryxus Doubleday, 1849 (currently Oeneis chryxus; Insecta, Lepidoptera, NYMPHALIDAE) 2

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2011
Authors:A. D. Warren
Journal:Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature
Start Page:137
Date Published:06/2011
Type of Article:Comment
Full Text

There is no ‘exceptional need’ for a neotype of Chionobas chryxus. The petitionerclaims that there are two species of ‘Oeneis chryxus’ occurring in Colorado andelsewhere in the Rocky Mountains of western North America. This hypothesis wasrecently proposed (Scott, 2006), and has never been tested through rigorousmorphological study or molecular techniques. Subsequent authors dealing with theNorth American fauna have not followed Scott’s nomenclature (with the singleexception of Kondla (2010)). Much of the wording in Scott’s petition portrays as‘fact’ concepts that have never been corroborated by detailed research. Manystatements presented as fact about ‘two species’ in the southern Rocky Mountains onpages 125–127 of the petition are debatable, and some are erroneous. My ownexperience with Oeneis in Colorado (where I grew up collecting them regularly,including the same populations Scott has based his hypotheses upon), as well ascurrent insight gleaned from curating 3,376 specimens of the Oeneis chryxus complexin the collections of the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, FloridaMuseum of Natural History, University of Florida [MGCL], suggest that Scott hasbadly misinterpreted the actual patterns of geographic variation in Oeneis chryxus.

There seem to be two taxonomic entities within Oeneis chryxus in Colorado, butmy preliminary analysis of MGCL material indicates only one species is likely to bepresent. This same analysis indicates that the high-elevation entity O. chryxusaltacordillera Scott from Colorado does not occur to the north in the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming, Montana and Alberta. In this region, only one taxon isBulletin of Zoological Nomenclature 68(2) June 2011 137present, which has always been regarded as Oeneis chryxus. O. chryxus altacordilleradoes not occur in Alberta (none of 155 specimens examined from Alberta in MGCLcould be considered altacordillera), and its occurrence in Montana and Wyoming isdoubtful. Thus, there should be no confusion over the identity of Shepard’s (1984)lectotype for Chionobas chryxus, very probably from Alberta.

Much of Scott’s argument for the need of a neotype is based on the hypothesis thatfemales of O. chryxus are not useful for identifying subspecies (or sibling species asclaimed by Scott). In my experience, this is simply not the case. Females of O. chryxusdemonstrate as much geographic variation as males, and are useful for identifyingsubspecies-level taxa, including altacordillera (as defined by Scott). Most importantly,all authors prior to Scott (Case 3495, who suggested Wyoming) agree thatShepard’s (1984) lectotype female likely originated in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta.

My analysis of the Oeneis chryxus group, together with recent literature, leads meto believe that Scott’s hypotheses about species-level relationships in the group arealmost certainly incorrect. Most of the statements presented as facts about thesupposed species diversity of the group in the southern Rocky Mountains areuntested hypotheses, and have not been widely accepted in the recent literature. Mostimportantly, if Scott’s altacordillera does not occur as far north as the RockyMountains of Alberta, there should be no confusion over the identity of any femaleOeneis chryxus from this region or of Shepard’s (1984) lectotype from the AlbertaRockies, so therefore there is absolutely no need for a neotype.

Additional references

Kondla, N.G. 2010. Section 2. Butterflies. Pp. 163–192 in Pohl, G.R., Anweiler, G.G., Schmidt,B.C. & Kondla, N.G. An annotated list of the Lepidoptera of Alberta, Canada. ZooKeys,38: 1–549.

Taxonomic Group(s): 
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith