Mourning Cloak Variation

Three cloaks in nature, courtesy N Kondla

Three cloaks in nature, courtesy N Kondla

Ross Layberry, writing in Ontario Lepidoptera in 2009, raises the prospect of full subspecies status for what has typically been considered a single species, Mourning Cloak, with no subspecies.  As many of you know, Mourning Cloak has a very wide distribution across the northern hemisphere, including Asia, Europe and North America, and the absence of speciation has always been thought rather remarkable.

Layberry and Canadian colleague Norbert Kondla are collecting information about sightings of the two U.S. “variations” of Nymphalis antiopalintnerii and hyperborea.  Both variations occur in Canada and in New York at least, with the typical eastern woodland species, lintnerii, presumed to be the one we have in the mid-Atlantic.  But looking at the defining characteristic – a deep chocolate brown color for lintnerii, and a light reddish cocoa for hyperborea – I wonder if we should be paying more attention to Mourning Cloaks we see in the mid-Atlantic. As Layberry asks in his paper, when was the last time you took a good, close look at Mourning Cloak?

Norbert sent along the illustrations in this post to amplify the point.  As he notes in an email to me this morning, the question is whether lintnerii and hyperborea are genetically distinct taxa, and then how many species actually comprise the complex we now know as Mourning Cloak.    His comment on the specimen I posted Saturday from Calvert Co. is that this is textbook hyperborea.

2009 Layberry_Possible subspecies of the Mourning Cloak is available in the LepLog library for your perusal.  If you have clear, upperside photos or vouchers of either variant and would like to be in touch with Kondla, his email is nkondla@telus.net.

Three Cloaks PDF

A box of hyperborea type Mourning Cloaks -- note the very reddish cocoa ground color

A box of hyperborea type Mourning Cloaks — note the very reddish cocoa ground color

A box of lintnerii-type Mourning Cloaks -- note the very dark, almost black ground color

A box of lintnerii-type Mourning Cloaks — note the very dark, almost black ground color

Jan Meyer sent in this pic of a lintnerii-type cloak taken 6/6/2010 on Hawksbill Mtn in Shenandoah NP in VA.

2010 Mourning Cloak by Jan Meyer taken June 6 in Shenandoah NP VA

This entry was posted in European butterflies, general butterfly news, Identification tips, sightings. Bookmark the permalink.

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