Monarch always a Monarch?

Kenelm Philip fnkwp at
Sat Mar 28 16:27:54 EST 1998

	Wanda Demeron noted: 

> a Monarch has always been a Monarch

That's not necessarily true. In these benighted parts of the continent
(Alaska and the Yukon) a Monarch is a Tiger Swallowtail! For many years
now I have been getting reports of Monarch sightings in both Alaska and
the Yukon--and wondering what was going on, since no museum collections
had Monarchs from this area, and there were no Alaska Lep. Survey records
either. I asked some of these people to _describe_ what they saw--it
turned out to be yellow and black with tails... Since then I have been
checking--and a sizeable portion of the people up here who give names
to _any_ kind of butterfly refer to Tiger Swallowtails as Monarchs. There
is even a 'Monarch Lane' in Fairbanks, which I suspect was named by
someone who noted the large numbers of Tiger Swallowtails in the area.
(Note: now that the northern member of this complex is referred to as
_Pterourus canadensis_ I would assume that Canadian Swallowtail is the
correct common name. So I should say 'Tiger Swallowtail s.l.')

	Wanda also said:

> When using scientific names, greatly appreciate the utilization of    
> the current one--not the one learned 30 or so years ago as a kid.

That's a point well worth making. I have lived through a number of sweeping
changes in NA butterfly scientific names (which is no fun when you're
curating a collection of 100,000 specimens or so). But the answer is
easy enough--get a copy of a current catalogue. However, that easy answer
has gotten a bit complicated recently. The Miller/Brown Catalogue (with
its Supplement by Ferris) is actually the latest NA catalogue, but there
has been a sudden shift by the editor of the Lep. Soc. Season Summary in
favor of the scheme used by Opler in the Western Butterfly Atlas (which
is effectively the MONA catalogue by Hodges, and has a slightly later
_publication_ date but actually represents work done a bit earlier, as
far as I know). So now there are _two_ scientific naming schemes for North
America. My own preference is for the Miller/Brown catalogue--but a number
of workers object strenuously (and vocally!) to its excessive splitting
by their standards, and refuse to utilize it. Meanwhile taxonomists
continue to do their thing--and neither of these catalogues is completely
up to date now.

	Like the Red Queen, we have to run very fast if we hope to stay
in the same place...

							Ken Philip
fnkwp at

More information about the Leps-l mailing list