Norbert Kondla, our good colleague from Alberta, has recently posted to Flickr some new pics of Mourning Cloaks in his collection. And what variation! As we noted here last spring, Cloaks in the mid-Atlantic vary from the very dark lintnerii form to the almost-tawny-red hyperborea. Check them out.
In an online exchange, Harry Pavulaan noted that, “Amazingly, hyperborea is most distinct from all other antiopa subspecies. Despite descriptions of antiopa in texts, these have a red dorsal ground color. Some are remarkably red. Eurasian antiopa is more blackish, as is lintneri.” Norbert responded that, “Yes Harry, I agree that hyperborea is visually the most divergent taxon from other named Cloak taxa. A wide variety of Cloak color descriptions are present in the literature, partly because of the very real geographic variation in these butterflies (available taxon names are antiopa, asopos, borealis, yedanula, hyperborea, lintnerii, thomsonii) and partly due to the variables that influence our human perceptions of color and perceptions of relative brightness-darkness of a viewed object. And another variable is the phenomenon of specimen fading with age which is replicated to some degree even in nature when one compares hibernated and flight worn individuals with freshly emerged individuals.”
One wonders if this is simply variation or a collection of cryptic species! Time (and DNA) will tell.