Butterfly/Moth Difference?

Kenelm Philip fnkwp at aurora.alaska.edu
Fri May 29 05:11:58 EDT 1998

	Mr. Coates made the delightfully tautologist observation:

> There is no difference. Any percieved diference is in the mind.                 

Well, it's hard to conceive how any _perceived_ difference between _any_
two items can be elsewhere than in the mind that perceives--but unless
you subscribe to solipsism, you like to imagine that a so-called 'real
world' is out there--and that differences that we perceive relate in some
way to differences in that world.

	The classification of Lepidoptera is to some extent arbitrary
(or we wouldn't have the perpetual debates between 'lumpers' and 'split-
ters'), but most taxonomists would agree that in North America members of
the following families are called 'butterflies': Hesperioidea (superfamily),
Papilionidae, Pieridae, Lycaenidae, Nymphalidae (includes Satyridea,
Heliconiidae, Danaidae, Libytheidae), Riodinidae. In practice, the presence
of knobbed antennae, and the absence of a frenulum, will separate butter-
flies from the rest of the order in North America.

	There will always be some oddball group where this easy identifi-
cation fails--just as there are organisms that, in the days of two king-
doms, could not be classified as either plant or animal. But if Mr. Coates
lives in a world where the _only_ difference between a kitten and a cactus,
or a tiger and a blade of grass, is in the mind--then I am happy to live

	Mr. Coates is right about one thing--butterflies are not a major
division of the order. They are merely a few familes from a very diverse
and large order that are predominately diurnal in flight and large enough
to be conspicuous. The differences between butterflies and the most closely
related moths are very small indeed compared to far greater differences
within the order (like Jugatae vs.Frenatae, or Zeugloptera/Monotrysia/Di-

							Ken Philip
fnkwp at aurora.alaska.edu

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