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1 September 2011 Eresia carlota Reakirt (Nymphalidae): The Designation of a Lectotype and the Return of the Type Locality to Colorado
John V. Calhoun
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The description of Eresia carlota Reakirt, 1866 (currently recognized as Chlosyne gorgone carlota) was based on specimens collected in 1864 in the foothills of the Front Range, west of Denver, Colorado. A subsequent neotype designation established the type locality as Cedar Hill, Missouri. The neotype, however, is inconsistent with the phenotype of this taxon as understood by Reakirt. More important, the neotype designation was based on an erroneous interpretation of the Code and is nomenclaturally invalid. A lectotype of Eresia carlota is designated, which restores this nominal taxon to its original concept and returns the type locality to Colorado.

Around the year 1865, the Philadelphia lepidopterist Tryon Reakirt (1844–ca.1873) received specimens of a supposed new species of butterfly from James Ridings (1803–1880), an English entomologist who also lived in Philadelphia. The specimens were collected by Ridings in Colorado during June of 1864. Reakirt (1866) named this taxon Eresia carlota and attributed it to “Rocky Mountains, Colorado Territory.” A century later, Brown (1974) decided that a neotype was necessary to properly define the name E. carlota. He selected a male specimen from Missouri and also figured a female from the same population, both of which were collected on 18 May 1947 by Pardon S. Remington.

Although Brown (1974) indicated that the neotype of carlota and its associated female were deposited in the Allyn Museum of Entomology (Sarasota, Florida), they were not found subsequent to the 2004 transfer of specimens from the Allyn Museum to the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity (MGCL, Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville). In June of 2010, Lawrence F. Gall unexpectedly located these specimens in the collection of the Peabody Museum of Natural History (PMNH, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut) (catalog no. YPM ENT 413267; the male lacks the neotype label mentioned by Brown). This discrepancy is explained in a letter from F. Martin Brown to Charles L. Remington of PMNH, dated 28 March 1975; “There is one specimen among the butterflies that technically belongs to the Allyn Museum of Entomology. That is the neotype for Reakirt's carlota. It makes no difference to me where it is preserved but it is stated in the designation that it is at Allyn. I thought that I had retained it but found that I had returned the specimens some years back” (archives, PMNH Div. Entomol.). The collection of P. S. Remington, father of C. L. Remington, is deposited at PMNH. In keeping with Brown's (1974) statement of disposition, these specimens will be transferred from PMNH to MGCL (L. F. Gall pers comm.).

The rediscovery of the neotype prompted me to reexamine its status. I concluded that Brown's (1974) designation does not satisfy the Code (ICZN 1999) and is nomenclaturally invalid. This is fortunate, as the neotype from Missouri is inconsistent with Reakirt's concept of this taxon, which was based on higher elevation specimens from Colorado.


The original description of Eresia carlota by Reakirt (1866) and the subsequent neotype designation by Brown (1974) were reviewed. The relevant provisions of the Code (ICZN 1964, 1999) were consulted to determine the validity of the neotype. Images were obtained of the neotype and its associated female. Also obtained were images of the Colorado specimens for which the name E. carlota was originally proposed. Microfilm printouts of the manuscripts of William H. Edwards (1822–1909) (MGCL archives) were examined for references to relevant taxa.


Reakirt (1866) included no written description or figure of Eresia carlota, but cited an earlier description by Edwards (1861), who had misidentified specimens of this species from Illinois and Missouri as Melitaea nycteis Doubleday (now recognized as Chlosyne nycteis). Reakirt (1866) criticized William H. Edwards for his earlier mistake; “I cannot imagine how Mr. Edwards could have regarded this very distinct species as identical with Mr. Doubleday's figure [of nycteis]; it no more resembles it, than does Tharos [Phyciodes tharos (Drury)]”. No written description accompanied the original figure of M. nycteis in Doubleday ([1847]), and only the dorsal surface of this species was portrayed. Consequently, the identity of Melitaea nycteis was very poorly understood throughout much of the 19th century and very few specimens were known. Scudder (1862) was aware of several specimens, which he described as a new species, Melitaea oenone. Only after examining types of M. nycteis, “received directly from Doubleday,” did Scudder realize his mistake (Scudder 1868).

Edwards' own confusion about these butterflies was more persistent. In 1864, C. nycteis was common near Edwards' home in West Virginia, but he identified the species as Melitaea ismeria Harris (nec Boisduval & Le Conte) (Edwards' journal “A”), which is synonymous with Melitaea harrisii, a butterfly described that same year by S. H. Scudder. Edwards (1870) later attempted to correct this mistake by identifying specimens of C. nycteis as M. harrisii. Probably in response to Reakirt's (1866) admonition, and supported by the capture (by a “Mr. Eaton”) of a single specimen of “carlota” near his home in July of 1867 (Edwards' journal “B”; Edwards 1894), Edwards (1871) concluded that his earlier interpretation of M. nycteis was synonymous with E. carlota. By the mid—1870s, Edwards acknowledged that he had previously misapplied the name M. harrisii (Edwards 1875), and he accurately remarked that carlota “abounds in Colorado” (letter to H. Edwards, 23 Dec. 1874). The latter statement was partially based on his receipt of specimens from his future son-in-law, Theodore L. Mead, who had collected them in Colorado in June of 1871 (see Mead 1875) (at least two such specimens from Mead are preserved in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the collections of Mead and Edwards are deposited). Having finally sorted out the names, Edwards (1877) listed carlota, harrisii, and nycteis as separate species within the genus Phyciodes.

Around that same time, Scudder (1875) determined that E. carlota was synonymous with the nominal taxon Dryas gorgone Hübner. After decades of confusion surrounding the application of these two names, carlota is now recognized as the subspecies Chlosyne gorgone carlota. The name Melitaea ismeria Boisduval & Le Conte also was applied to C. gorgone, but irrevocable confusion about its identity warranted its suppression (Calhoun 2003; Calhoun et al. 2005; ITZN 2006).

Despite its broad distribution in North America, only two subspecies of C. gorgone are currently recognized. The nominotypical subspecies is purported to occur within a restricted area of the upper coastal plain of Georgia and adjacent South Carolina (Gatrelle 1998), while all other populations are tentatively regarded as C. g. carlota. If we must define the original concept of the nominal taxon Dryas gorgone, then perceived differences in western montane populations (see below) emphasize the need to properly recognize the original concept of Eresia carlota Reakirt.

Reakirt's collection was acquired in 1868 by the lepidopterist F. H. Herman Strecker (1836–1901) of Reading, Pennsylvania (Brown 1964). In a catalog of supposed types in his collection, Strecker (1900) listed a pair (male and female) of carlota that he received from Reakirt. Eight years later, Strecker's collection of over 50,000 specimens was purchased for $20,000 by the Field Museum of Natural History (FMNH, Chicago, Illinois) (Anonymous 1908; Skiff 1909). Strecker's collection at FMNH still contains the two specimens of carlota that he listed in 1900 (Figs. 1, 2). Labels, most likely prepared by Strecker (or under his supervision), identify them as Eresia carlota and attribute them to Reakirt (Fig. 3).

The two specimens of C. gorgone in the Strecker collection were long co