numbers of butterflies

Cal Snyder snyder at
Fri Feb 26 16:45:54 EST 1999

Numbers of butterflies (and moths).

Based on the most recent comprehensive review (Scoble 1992),
there are 14, 500 described species of " true butterflies",  and slightly
more than 3000 described species of Hesperiidae.  New species
descriptions are continuing,  primarily in the Lycaenidae, including
the Riodininae,  and in the Hesperiidae.  Some of these represent
discoveries of new organisms "in nature", and others result
from revisions of the existing classification.

Species totals for the larger families of moths are growing;
the Geometridae are generally acknowledged to have about 25,000
described species,  and the Noctuidae more than 20,000.  There
are large numbers of undetermined Neotropical noctuids
accumulating in active research collections, and many of these taxa
will prove to be undescribed.  The family with the largest number of
undescribed taxa appears to be the Pyralidae;  the current total of
25,000 species is likely to double or, some predict, even triple in size.

The Arctiidae,  a family in the Noctuoidea,  has between 10-11,000
described species.  New descriptions are continuing, especially among
Neotropical taxa.

A recent long-term study of one subfamily of Neotropical moths of about
400 described species generated a small number of new taxa from
discoveries in the field and an intensive study of the existing classification.
A by-product of this research is a rough estimate that, if revisionary work
were completed, new taxa might total 5-8% of the 400 described species.

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