Speyeria Shenanigans and Pieris

Ron Gatrelle gatrelle at tils-ttr.org
Tue Sep 11 14:36:01 EDT 2001

Since I have spent a lot of time in the far tip of western North Carolina
this year I have had the opportunity to observe a large number of Speyeria
in that region at all mid to high elevations.   Although this is well south
of the known range of S. atlantis populations, I have been looking for
smaller dark individuals in the "crowd" that might be that. While no
recognizable atlantis segregate have turned up I have collected a small
series of a "form" (both males and females) of a small dark Speyeria that I
am not entirely comfortable in referring to Speyeria aphrodite cullasaja.
Many cullasaja are very dark but there is a look and size to these odd
individuals that solicits investigation. I just thought the first specimen
was an aberration. Then I began to find more. Always small and always very
dark but with wide ventral light band on the hind wing. Cullasaja has
within it the normal subspecies variation of light to  dark  forms found in
Aphrodite everywhere. The lightest cullasaja are just about like the
darkest individuals of nominate aphrodite in the northeast US. But, both
the dorsally light and dark forms of cullasaja have not to narrow light
banding on the HW ventral margin. And when the band in wider it is diffuse
and not sharp where it meets the basal color. In these odd specimens the
band is wide, very light, and changes sharply at the row of silver spots at
the edge of the basal dark brown. No conclusions, just observations.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Mark Walker" <MWalker at gensym.com>
Subject: RE: Speyeria Shenanigans and Pieris

> Barbara asked about field marks.  I'm not sure which butterflies she's
> specifically referring to (I think it's the Speyeria that Norbert has on
> e-Board), but I can say that she's not the only one who struggles with
> identifications.  The Fritillaries I enjoyed in Oregon recently were also
> virtually impossible to separate.  There's no question that there are
> various forms on the wing - especially when you consider both the ventral
> and dorsal views (which Norbert's page does not show), but there are also
> very many similarities.  Size is a factor, along with the coloration (and
> extent of scaling) of the disc on the ventral hindwing.  The degree and
> pattern of black scaling on the dorsal forewing is a good identifier, as
> well as the extent of silver spotting.  The size and coloration of the
> submarginal band on the ventral hindwing is also a good identifier.  Of
> course, one would like to think that identification might be as simple as
> knowing your location - but that isn't always enough.  I, too, ran into
> I'm sure map to multiple "subspecies" of S. zerene.  With that much
> variation, it's difficult to isolate the differences.
> I did witness a number of mating pairs - and I think that outside of
> bringing them into captivity, it's only through field observation that we
> can gain any insight.  It would appear that there is no cross breeding
> amongst species, but I can't prove that with my field observations alone.
> It's tempting to consider the possibility that all of these bugs are the
> same critter.  On the other hand, it's truly overwhelming when you
> into a Fritillary frenzy and you consider the possibility that they might
> just in fact all be different.  I saw at least three frits that day which
> were totally unique from all of the others.  When it's one in thousands
> you're looking at, you can't hardly afford to ignore even a single one.
> In 90 degree F. plus heat, it's not for the faint hearted, that's for
> Mark Walker


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