Caeruleputychia_heliosOne of the richest butterfly radiations in the Neotropical lowlands is the nymphalid satyrine subtribe Euptychiina, which is also one of the three most poorly studied groups of ‘true butterflies’ (Papilionoidea). In fact, few other animal groups that are so taxonomically challenging are as speciose, large, conspicuous and commonly encountered by researchers, students and naturalists. Hundreds of thousands of euptychiine specimens in museum collections hold untapped data for studies in evolution, biogeography and conservation. However, we estimate that almost half of these specimens cannot be confidently identified.

three butterflies brown wings

More than 400 species in 42 genera are currently recognized (our research now suggests 500+ species and 70+ genera), with at least 20% of species still undescribed, a remarkable fraction among butterflies. Molecular phylogenies suggest that Euptychia itself may not be related to remaining “euptychiines”, and the generic classification is chaotic, with 65% of genera currently invalid. Modern monographs treat only five euptychiine genera (15%), with references for remaining genera now a century old. Because of their drab wing patterns, difficulties in identifying the often highly cryptic species and their sedentary life-style, most euptychiine collections are in disarray, and the biology of most species remains unstudied. In the field, however, euptychiines are a common and diverse component of communities from the rainforest to the cerrado. Reliable guides to the taxonomy and identification of euptychiines should therefore unlock the group’s great potential for broader studies in evolution, ecology, biogeography and conservation.