Re: Taxonomic change - Anthocharis sara complex

Neil Bjorklund

Thanks for sharing this Jon!  I read the 2022 paper with interest.  Then I groaned when I saw Figure 23, the map for the A. sara group.  As I read it, it documents A. sara in the northern part of the coast range of Oregon, likely flying in sympatry with A. julia, and probably occurs throughout the coast range.  Which means lazy amatuer field lepidopterists like me can’t rely solely on a simple geographic forumla to separate the two species (e.g., “if its north of Jackson and Josephine counties, it A. julia”). And photos may be of no help in determining the ID. As the paper states, “This is problematic because overlap in adult morphological characters of all three species make it challenging to identify wing traits exclusive to any single species.” Groan.  And then, “These similar phenotypes are distributed randomly throughout the sara group taxa and are not regionally correlated except for those which are phenotypically similar and fly in near sympatry…”  I interpret the latter to mean that one would have to learn the wing trait differences of the two species within the areas in which they fly in sympatry.  Groan.


Someone please let me know if I’m misinterpreting this…




Neil Bjorklund




From: <> on behalf of JONATHAN PELHAM <zapjammer@...>
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Date: Tuesday, January 24, 2023 at 12:40 PM
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Cc: TILS <>, desertleps <>, norwestleps <>
Subject: [NorWestLeps] Taxonomic change - Anthocharis sara complex





To begin, I don’t assume that everyone in this audience has the same intense interest in butterfly systematics that I do. However, it is plain how important it is to Todd Stout, Harry Pavulaan & Steve Kohler, all engaged in preparing regional treatments. Further, Mike Fisher, Jim Brock and Ken Davenport have long been familiar with issues of butterfly systematics as they prepared their work.


Me? I catalogue it all and have a commitment to it’s users. As result, I am familiar with what has transpired and amazed at what is upon us currently. Apparently, no matter how elusive a definitive systematic arrangement of butterflies may be, it can be attained. Perhaps I will witness it!


It may be useful to detail how past taxonomic changes have taken place. It gives me pleasure to document one example reflecting the hard work of one of our own - Todd Stout- and the reticence of this cataloguer to make BIG changes without profound support.


In 1986 Geiger & Shapiro published a paper giving electrophoretic evidence supporting Anthocharis sara, A.stella and A.julia as “differentiated at the species level.”


As I recall, this was discussed but not acted upon until Layberry et al treated all Canadian populations as A.stella in 1998. A year later, Opler doubled down, adding a twist, treating A. thoosa as a distinct species as well.


These publications created difficulties as I prepared the catalogue but I had a friend (TS) who had published a paper in 2005 treating A.sara and A.stella as distinct species in a rearing study. We talked and he said (something like): JP...I’m crazy for orange-tips and I’m going to figure this one out - but I haven’t yet.”


I deferred from accepting the split in 2008. I eagerly awaited Todd’s paper...which arrived in 2018 and I am gratified that Opler et al, 2022 supported Todd’s conclusions


This took 22 years but I am not citing this as any sort of standard! It is only an example.





Geiger, Hansjürg and Arthur Maurice Shapiro

1986 Electrophoretic evidence for speciation within the nominal species Anthocharis sara Lucas (Pieridae). Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 25(1): 15-24, 2 figs., 4 tbls. {Spring 1986, 1 Oct 1986}


Layberry, Ross A., Peter W. Hall and James Donald Lafontaine (plates by John T. Fowler)

1998 The butterflies of Canada. Toronto, Buffalo & London; University of Toronto Press: 280 pp., 32 pls., 294 maps and ill. {1998}



Opler, Paul Alexander

1999 A field guide to western butterflies. Boston, New York; Houghton Mifflin Company, The Peterson Field Guide Series (Amy Bartlett Wright (illustrator): xiv, [2], 540 pp., 44 pls., figs. & maps. {1999}


Stout, Todd L.

2005 The challenge of raising northern Utah orangetips (Anthocharis stella browningi and Anthocharis sara thoosa). Bulletin of the Utah Lepidopterists’ Society 12(1): 5-9, 13, 7 figs. {Mar 2005}


Scott, James Allen and Michael S. Fisher

2008 Anthocharissara” group, especially in Colorado and vicinity (with new research from Todd Stout) (one ssp. coauthored by Norbert G. Kondla). Pp. 1-14, pl. 2, in: J. Scott (Ed.), Geographic variation and new taxa of western North American butterflies, especially from Colorado. Papilio (New Series) 18 {3 Dec 2008}


Stout, Todd L.

2010 Observations on Anthocharis julia browningi and Anthocharis thoosa thoosa including tension zones near Nephi, Juab County, Utah. Taxonomic Report of the International Lepidoptera Survey 7(4): 1-12 {31 May 2010}


Stout, Todd L.

2018 A review of three species-level taxa of the Anthocharis sara complex (Lepidoptera: Pieridae: Pierinae: Anthocharidini). Insecta Mundi 0615: 1-38, 26 figs., 3 tbls.,1 app. {30 Mar 2018}


Opler, Paul Alexander, Todd L. Stout, Werner Back, Jing Zhang, Qian Cong. Jinhui Shen, Jing Zhang and Nicolay Vyacheslav Grishin

2022 DNA barcodes reveal different speciation scenarios in the four North American Anthocharis Boisduval, Rambur, [Duménil] & Graslin, [1833] (Lepidoptera: Pieridae: Pierinae: Anthocharidini) species groups. Zootaxa 5194(4): 519–539, 28 figs. {7 Oct 2022}

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