Vanessa amerindica,

Jong, Rienk De, 2017, Fossil butterflies, calibration points and the molecular clock (Lepidoptera: Papilionoidea), Zootaxa 4270 (1), pp. 1-63: 16

publication ID 10.5281/zenodo.583183

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Vanessa amerindica


amerindica  . Vanessa amerindica Miller & Brown, 1989 

Fig. 5View FIGURE 5

Nymphalidae  : Nymphalinae  ; Nymphalini  .

USA, Colorado  , Florissant; late Priabonian, late Eocene. 

Depository: FFNM (holotype: FLFO-108), FMUF ( CHT: UF21999; PT UF22000).

Published figures: Emmel et al. (1992: Figs 1View FIGURE 1 /12 and opp. title page); Miller & Brown (1989: Figs. 1–5View FIGURE 1View FIGURE 2View FIGURES 3 – 4View FIGURE 5); Murata (1998: Figs 53–55).

Two specimens, both ventral view; one specimen fairly complete with abdomen (squashed) and four wings, having the hindwings superimposed on forewings, the other specimen consisting of the distal three-fourths of the two left wings. No antennae or proboscis present. Palp visible, third segment one-third length of second segment. Veins in forewing not basally swollen, radial formula 1, 2, 3+(4+5) (a plesiomorphous condition), cell open (internal apomorphy of Nymphalidae  ); hindwing with faint indication of humeral vein (but not indicated in Fig. 3View FIGURES 3 – 4 of the original description), two anal veins, cell open, an apomorphy of several nymphalid groups. Apex of forewing produced, with lobe at M1-M2. Forelegs reduced.

According to the authors the produced apex of the forewing with the characteristic lobe at M1–M2 is indicative of the genus Vanessa  (Nymphalidea, Nymphalinae  ). A similar lobe can be found in several other genera of the Nymphalinae  , particularly Nymphalini  sensu Wahlberg et al. (2005b), to which Vanessa  and genera like Aglais  , Nymphalis  and Precis  belong ( Wahlberg et al. 2009), and can be considered an autapomorphy. Miller & Brown (1989) suggest that what is left of the pattern is reminiscent of the pattern of the extant Old World species Vanessa indica (Herbst)  , but they remark that the pattern remnants are very poor and not easy to interpret since the forewings and hindwings are superimposed. Moreover, in the figures accompanying the description of the fossil, the holotype and the paratype, the spots in the apical area do not seem to be exactly alike. Even if the pattern would fully agrees with those of V. indica  , without indication of the apomorphies in wing pattern of the genus Vanessa  , the similarity remains superficial and does not indicate a close relationship. Moreover, in Vanessa  the cell in the hindwing is generally closed, though the crossvein may be too weak to show up clearly in a fossil. Further, Sc in the hindwing is remarkably straight in the drawings of the fossil, and is obviously straight in the photo of the paratype, different from the nicely curved vein in Vanessa  . The suggestion by the authors, that the presence of a fossil butterfly of Old World affinities in North America may have something to do with migratory behavior, is premature and highly speculative.

Vane-Wright & Hughes (2007) mentioned Vanessa amerindica  in their extensive description and discussion of the extant Vanessa  species, but took the opinion of Miller and Brown that the fossil is most like Vanessa indica  at face value. In the analysis of extant species of the genus Vanessa  by Otaki et al. (2006) there is no evidence that the wing design in Vanessa indica  (or the Vanessa indica  group sensu Otaki et al.) is apomorphic. Consequently, I do not see convincing evidence for placing this fossil otherwise than as a member of the Nymphalini  sensu Wahlberg et al. (2005b). On the basis of the suggestion in the original description that the fossil belongs to the genus Vanessa, Wahlberg (2006)  , Wahlberg et al. (2009) and Heikkilä et al. (2011) have used the fossil as calibration point for the split between Vanessa  and its sister group, while in my opinion it would have been correct on the basis of available evidence to place the fossil lower down in the tree, at the base of the Nymphalini  , making the molecular clock faster, consisting of more substitutions in the same time period yielding younger divergence times. See also comments by Brower & Vane-Wright 2011.


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