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1 December 2014 Correction of the Status of Speyeria atlantis and S. hesperis
Crispin S. Guppy, Norbert G. Kondla, James A. Scott
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Hammond et al. (2013) incorrectly represented the writing of Grey (1951), a casual note in one of the original Lepidopterists' News, in an attempt to justify the hypothesis that eastern U.S. Speyeria atlantis are the same species as western U.S. S. hesperis. Grey actually wrote that ssp. atlantis & canadensis “are not sharply different races” and wrote that some Colorado specimens are “so exactly like Appalachian individuals that nobody…could tell them apart.”, then on p. 34 he wrote “in the Riding Mts…we meet again with eastern atlantis in the dark phase hollandi.” The intergradation that Grey noted and found in his decades of study, was within the ssp. of western butterflies that we now know as S. hesperis, as ssp. hesperis gradually changes into irene for instance in a roundabout journey hopping from one mountain range to another. Grey's major failure was his lumping of the two species S. atlantis and S. hesperis, which was corrected by Scott et al. (1998), who split them into the two species that are now generally recognized (including in the Pelham catalogue), based on numerous traits of adults and larvae and the intergradation of ssp. atlantis with ssp. hollandi (Klassen et al. 1989 also demonstrated that eastern S. atlantis atlantis is conspecific with western S. atlantis hollandi in Manitoba), and named three western ssp. S. atlantis pahasapa and S. atlantis sorocko and S. hesperis brico that were previously unrecognized in the area of sympatry of S. atlantis with western S. hesperis. The mature larvae of West Virginia ssp. atlantis and western ssp. hollandi and ssp. sorocko are identical with “crocodile skin” dorsal stripes and complex lateral white markings (Allen et al 2005, James & Nunnallee 2011, Scott et al. 1998), while S. hesperis and other Speyeria larvae differ. The mtDNA study of McHugh et al. (2013) found that sorocko and hollandi are a monophyletic sister group in the “mitochondrial, the nuclear and the full concatenated analyses (Fig. 2, 4).” The barcoding mtDNA phenogram made by two of us (Guppy and Kondla, unpublished) likewise found that S. atlantis atlantis specimens (4 from Virginia, 1 from Nova Scotia) were thoroughly mixed together with specimens of hollandi (6 from British Columbia, 4 from Manitoba) on that same monophyletic branch, while 20 specimens of S. hesperis (ssp. lais, beani, brico, nausicaa,) were clustered together on the other side of the phenogram as the sister group of 13 specimens of S. aphrodite from Virginia and British Columbia. There are no consistent diagnostic mtDNA differences between Virginia S. a. atlantis and BC and Manitoba S. a. hollandi, compared to 25 differences between those and S. hesperis. The minimum distance between S. atlantis and S. hesperis in this study was 4.25% (using standard genetic data analysis tools available on the BOLD systems workbench at, which is twice the distance commonly considered to indicate different species. In contrast, the genetic distance within specimens of each species was less than 1% and there was no consistent difference between Va./N.S. atlantis and hollandi. (Dunford [2007] found 4.5% gene difference between Vermont S. atlantis and Wyoming “atlantis” based on one male, but photos of it prove that the specimen is actually S. hesperis hesperis. McHugh et al. [2013] also misidentified some specimens, including a “S. callippe elaine” whose photo suggests it is S. zerene picta.) So S. atlantis and S. hesperis are not even closely-related species; S. zerene is closer to S. hesperis than is S. atlantis, while S. aphrodite is nearest to S. hesperis on the phenogram.

Literature Cited


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Crispin S. Guppy, Norbert G. Kondla, and James A. Scott "Correction of the Status of Speyeria atlantis and S. hesperis," The Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 68(4), 286-287, (1 December 2014).
Received: 22 April 2014; Accepted: 23 May 2014; Published: 1 December 2014

DNA barcoding
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