NymphalidaeNiklas Wahlberg and Andrew V. Z. Brower
This tree diagram shows the relationships between several groups of organisms.
The root of the current tree connects the organisms featured in this tree to their containing group and the rest of the Tree of Life. The basal branching point in the tree represents the ancestor of the other groups in the tree. This ancestor diversified over time into several descendent subgroups, which are represented as internal nodes and terminal taxa to the right.
You can click on the root to travel down the Tree of Life all the way to the root of all Life, and you can click on the names of descendent subgroups to travel up the Tree of Life all the way to individual species.close box
The pages under Nymphalidae on the Tree of Life Web site are being worked on at this moment. Relationships are shown for the most part down to the level of genera, but there is still very little other information on the pages. The pages will be continuously updated, so please check back often.
The family Nymphalidae is the most speciose family of butterflies with about 6000 described species so far. The family contains many well-known species, such as the monarch, the Painted Lady, the buckeye, the fritillaries, checkerspots and the electric blue morphos. Indeed, nymphalids are in many places the most visible members of the local butterfly fauna. Due to their visibility and ease of study in the field and lab, many species of nymphalids have been used as model systems to understand the complexity of life on this planet.
All species of Nymphalidae are united by a single morphological character, the tricarinate ridges found on the adult butterfly's antennae.
The diversity in form and life style has meant that the phylogenetic relationships of nymphalids have been contentious. This in turn has meant that there has been no consensus on the classification of the group, with some authors splitting the family into up to 9 different families! The lack of a good phylogenetic hypothesis has also meant that the evolutionary history of the group has been shrouded in mystery. Recent molecular and morphological work is bringing light to the question of how different species and groups of species are related to each other. The tree shown above is the best hypothesis of subfamilial relationships based on as yet unpublished combined analyses of morphological and molecular data.
Many groups within Nymphalidae are currently under investigation, and we have endeavored to provide current hypotheses of relationships for each group. Where these are lacking, lists of taxa down to the species level are provided, in the hope that this will stimulate further research.
Ackery, P. R., R. de Jong, and R. I. Vane-Wright. 1999. The butterflies: Hedyloidea, Hesperioidea, and Papilionoidea. Pages 264-300 in: Lepidoptera: Moths and Butterflies. 1. Evolution, Systematics, and Biogeography. Handbook of Zoology Vol. IV, Part 35. N. P. Kristensen, ed. De Gruyter, Berlin and New York.
Brower, A. V. Z. 2000. Phylogenetic relationships among the Nymphalidae (Lepidoptera), inferred from partial sequences of the wingless gene. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B Biological Sciences 267:1201-1211.
Freitas, A. V. L. and K. S. Brown. 2004. Phylogeny of the Nymphalidae (Lepidoptera). Systematic Biology 53 (3):363-383.
Wahlberg, N., E. Weingartner, and S. Nylin. 2003. Towards a better understanding of the higher systematics of Nymphalidae (Lepidoptera: Papilionoidea). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 28:473-484.
Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
Correspondence regarding this page should be directed to Niklas Wahlberg at and Andrew V. Z. Brower at
Page copyright © 2003 Niklas Wahlberg and
- Content changed 19 February 2007
Citing this page:
Wahlberg, Niklas and Brower, Andrew V. Z. 2007. Nymphalidae http://tolweb.org/Nymphalidae/12172/2007.02.19 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/. Version 19 February 2007 (under construction).