Clear and Present Evidence

Kondla, Norbert FOR:EX Norbert.Kondla at
Tue Apr 4 11:22:38 EDT 2000

This bears on the topic of evidence and taxonomic treatment with one or more
options to select from.  A couple of recent books have used the species
Coenonympha tullia to reference all western North American ringlets.  If a
rationale for this was presented in either book, I was not able to find it.
I am not aware of any published or unpublished information to support this
interpretation/taxonomic decision.  In the course of picking a name (to
apply to southern BC ringlets) for a report last year; I reviewed the
published information that I have at hand and applied my version of logical
thinking to come to a conclusion.  Here is what I wrote: "This species has
been variously listed as C. tullia or C. ampelos in the literature.  My
reasons for assigning the Pend-d'Oreille material to the species C.
california are similar to deciding whether to use tullia or inornata during
writing of Alberta Butterflies (Bird et al. 1995).  There appears to be no
evidence to support the notion that C. tullia is present throughout the
entire range of ringlets in North America.  A paper by Davenport (1941) is
sometimes cited as evidence (most recently by Webster 1998) that we should
call all our North American material tullia but this evidence seems to
consist of a casual statement that the populations on the opposite sides of
the Bering Strait "are hardly to be considered distinct".  It is noteworthy
that Davenport plainly states "... I have purposely neglected to separate
the Coenonympha of the New World from those of the Old...".  In fact,
nothing has ever been published to connect these far northwestern
populations with taxa such as inornata or ampelos.  In the case of southern
BC, Porter and Geiger (1988) provide compelling evidence that the butterfly
previously treated as the species ampelos is in fact correctly placed as a
subspecies of C. california."
I also looked at the distribution maps in Butterflies of Canada and saw that
there is zero evidence of linking populations between the far northwest
populations and the rest of the continent.  I have also not seen any
published evidence that inornata grades into the group of taxa which appear
to be best treated as C. california. So on the basis of published evidence I
conclude that the ringlets in southern BC are best called C. california and
those in Alberta are best called C. inornata
Of course I would be interested in the rationale for other treatments and
because I chose to not limit my decision making by only looking at part of
the available evidence; I would also welcome any info/observations on this
topic which have not been published.
And last but not least; bonus points for those of you who correctly
recognized the title of this note as a play on words derived from the movie
"clear and present danger" starring Harrison Ford :-)
Norbert Kondla  P.Biol., RPBio.
Forest Ecosystem Specialist, Ministry of Environment
845 Columbia Avenue, Castlegar, British Columbia V1N 1H3
Phone 250-365-8610
Mailto:Norbert.Kondla at

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