The Limenitis question

Chris J. Durden drdn at
Fri Sep 7 01:02:05 EDT 2001

    I think you are on the right track.
.........Chris Durden
See notes below -

At 02:17 PM 9/6/2001 -0700, you wrote:
>Alex raises some questions on Limenitis:
>"As far as the Limenitis are concerned, it may very well be that the entire
>arthemis/rubrofasciata/astyannax/weidemeyerii/lorquini  complex is in fact
>conspecific since they all freely hybridize in their contact zones and
>produce fertile offspring. Their ranges fit one another quite nicely.
>Structurally they are nearly similar, are they not? Archippus does hybridize
>with astyannax in the Mississippi Valley at least, but apparently produces
>only sterile male offspring, and also does rarely hybridizes with arthemis.
>It is obviously very closely related to them. What about arizonensis? Is
>there any known hybridization with either weidemeyerii or archippus? What is
>its true relationship with astyannax? This whole group seems to be in a very
>fluid and ongoing continuous evolutionary state. There is obviously genetic
>transfer between all of them."
>My comments:
>This is a really fascinating example which unlike most butterflies has had a
>good deal of research and we have some data. But everything is still open to
>how one defines a species and how one interprets that data and whether or
>not one accepts that the data is even relevant to the issue; eg. some people
>think that UV reflectance or lack thereof has taxonomic value while others
>do not think that way. Adam Porter (1989 Am. Nat.) published on his look at
>the arizonensis/weidemeyerii contact in New Mexico. Hybrids of these
>apparently exist but on the basis of electrophoretic comparison of 19
>presumptive loci he concluded that these taxa are fully reproductively
>isolated. The perhaps shocking conclusion that I came to after looking at
>Limenitis literature is that arizonensis has no business being placed as a
>ssp of arthemis/astyanax and should be treated as a full species.. Porter
>even mentions this in his paper.

I agree, based on my studies of *astyanax* in Central Texas, and nearly to 
the Rio Grande (Sycamore Creek), and on my studies of *arizonensis* in The 
Davis Mts, of Texas, Animas Mts. of New Mexico and in E Arizona, and on my 
studies of *arizonensis* subsp. in the Serranias del Burros of Coahuila and 
on the SMO of Nuevo Leon, SE Coahuila and W Tamaulipas. I think this 
Mexican supspecies has picked up the underside red flush through ongoing 
low level introgression with *obsoleta hoffmanni*.

>Further the history of treating arthemis
>and astyanax as conspecific may come to an end eventually. See for example
>the work of Waldbauer et al in Can. J. Zool. 1988. It was not that many
>years ago when everyone blindly accepted Papilio canadensis and Papilio
>glaucus as one species on the basis of a perceived 'blending' zone. If we
>accepted hybrids as proof of conspecific status then many species of ducks
>and geese would disappear from our bird lists :-) I personally have no
>problem with good species hybridizing in narrow/relatively narrow contact
>zones. Hey, Colias philodice and euytheme are alleged to do this over much
>of their range :-)

Yes just like *arthemis* and *astyanax* the blending occurs in the most 
disturbed part of their range contact. Farther west where both species meet 
in the wild, they do not seem to be as prone to hybridize. I suspect that 
when the Allegheny/Appalachian forest was in all its pre-Columbian glory 
neither pair of species met each other in the East.

>Norbert Kondla  P.Biol., RPBio.
>Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management
>845 Columbia Avenue, Castlegar, British Columbia V1N 1H3
>Phone 250-365-8610
>Mailto:Norbert.Kondla at
>  ------------------------------------------------------------
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