The Painted Lady
Vanessa cardui (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) Linnaeus, 1758
Vanessa cardui perching on butterfly bush flowers Buddleja. Image by Thom Mitchell (Permission pending)
Acknowledgment: Data were provided by the Butterfly and Moth Information Network and the many participants who contribute to its Butterflies and Moths of North America project.
Vanessa cardui, also known as the painted lady butterfly, boasts the world's farthest known butterfly migratory route, beating the well-known North American migratory Monarch butterfly Danaus plexippus! As one of the most cosmopolitan insect species in the world, the painted lady is found in all continents except Antarctica. Some of the reasons for its widespread distribution include a wide variety of plants it feeds and lays eggs on, the ability to migrate and avoid winter, and continuously reproducing. This almost global distribution means that its pretty wings can be observed around the world and easy to rear for scientific studies. Of course, they are also not classified as endangered anywhere.
Recently, efforts have been devoted to understanding the exact migration routes V. cardui take. If you want to learn and contribute to knowing where they travel to and breed, you can become a Citizen Scientist by contributing to this global project on V. cardui. But first, just scroll down to find out more about this extravagant Painted Lady butterfly!
The Nymphalidae family is the family with the largest number of butterfly species.
Vanessa cardui belongs to a subgenus known as Cynthia, commonly known as painted ladies, together with V. kershawi, V. virginiensis and V. annabella. The species concepts for Lepidoptera appears to be significantly skewed towards the Biological Species Concept
Wheeler, Q., & Meier, R. (Eds.). (2000). Species concepts and phylogenetic theory: a debate. Columbia University Press.
, where reproductive isolation can be easily tested by interbreeding studies and the past two decades of phylogenetic analyses have incorporated the time of divergence of clades in Lepidoptera.
Scientific name: Vanessa cardui
Homotypic synonym: Cynthia cardui (Linnaeus 1758)
Common name: Painted lady butterfly, Thistle butterfly, Cosmopolitan
The genus Vanessa means butterfly in Greek. The origin of cardui is not known.
Original description of Papilio (Nymphalis) cardui by Linnaeus (1758). Image by Biodiversity Heritage Library
Caroli Linnaei...Systema naturae per regna tria naturae :secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Image obtained from Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL). Retrieved on 2 Nov 2018 from https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/10277#page/497/mode/1up.
First described as Papilio (Nymphalis) cardui by Carl Linnaeus in 1758
Linnæus, C. 1758. Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata. - pp. 475, 1-824. Holmiæ. (Salvius).
, Papilio cardui was revised by William D. Field (1971) to the genus Cynthia, along with other Vanessa species
Field, W. D. (1971). Butterflies of the genus Vanessa and of the resurrected genera Bassaris and Cynthia (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae).
. Following the extensive revision by Field, Wahlberg et al. (2005) resynonymised the genera Bassaria and Cynthia with Vanessa based on maximum parsimony analysis of molecular and morphological characters, leading to the current-day binomial name of Vanessa cardui
Wahlberg, N., Braby, M. F., Brower, A. V., de Jong, R., Lee, M. M., Nylin, S., ... & Zakharov, E. (2005). Synergistic effects of combining morphological and molecular data in resolving the phylogeny of butterflies and skippers. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 272(1572), 1577-1586.
, Despite the changes at the genus level, the species level taxonomy was stable.
The specimen described by Linnaeus in 1758 and designated in 1764
Linnaeus, C. V. von-1761. Fauna Svecica. Stockholmiae, editio altera:(48), 1-578.
did not survive and another specimen was by Field (1971) and chosen as lectotype. The following is the type locality as described.
Type Locality: “Europae, Africae”; defined as “Sweden” by W. D. Field (1971), Smithsonian Contrib. Zool. (84): 43, based on Linnaeus’ reference to Fauna Svecica.
Today, the surviving specimen designated by Honey and Scoble (2001)
Honey, M. R., & Scoble, M. J. (2001). Linnaeus's butterflies (Lepidoptera: Papilionoidea and Hesperioidea). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 132(3), 277-399.
is named a lectotype as well.
Images of lectotype in LINN 0299 Papilio cardui (Ins Linnaeus).Images by The Linnean Collections, UK (permission obtained).
Table showing classification of V. cardui
Global Biodiversity Information Facility. URL: https://www.gbif.org/ (accessed on 2 Dec 2018).
|Subclass||Pterygota – winged insects|
|Infraclass||Neoptera – modern, wing-folding insects|
|Order||Lepidoptera – butterflies, moths|
|Superfamily||Papilionoidea Latreille, 1802 – butterflies, papillons|
|Family||Nymphalidae Rafinesque, 1815 – Brushfooted Butterflies|
|Subfamily||Nymphalinae Rafinesque, 1815 – True Brushfoots|
|Tribe||Nymphalini Rafinesque, 1815|
|Genus||Vanessa (Fabricius, 1807)|
|Species||Vanessa cardui (Linnaeus, 1758) – Painted Lady|
Butterflies are one of the most well studied group of organisms, in particular the ecology and evolutionary processes of the largest family of butterflies, Nymphalidae. The following will highlight some of the attempts at resolving phylogenetic relationships within the Nymphalinae subfamily that V. cardui is grouped in.
The latest phylogenetic analysis of the subfamily Nymphalinae was conducted by Su et al. (2017).
Phylogenetic relationships obtained based on maximum likelihood and Bayesian analysis of specimens within the Nymphalinae subfamily. Position of V. cardui is demarcated by the red arrow
Su, C., Shi, Q., Sun, X., Ma, J., Li, C., Hao, J., & Yang, Q. (2017). Dated phylogeny and dispersal history of the butterfly subfamily Nymphalinae (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae). Scientific reports, 7(1), 8799.
A total of 353 specimens of 269 described species covering 55 of all 56 nymphaline genera was used to reconstruct the specimen-level tree. Sequences of three genes, EF1a, COI and wingless were concatenated and aligned using MUSCLE in MEGA5 software and checked manually. Time priors for Bayesian analysis was based on the fossils Vanessa amerindica and Prodryas persephone, from about 35 Ma, representing the divergence of Vanessa from its sister genus Hypanartia. In addition, secondary time priors using two host plant dates, Acanthaceae were used to estimate divergence time. For phylogenetic reconstruction, Bayesian, maximum likelihood (ML) and maximum parsimony (MP) were used. ML was conducted using raxmlGUI1.5b1 and bootstrap values were obtained using 1,000 pseudoreplicates. As for MP, tree-bisection reconnection (TBR) branch-swapping technique, together with heuristic search over 500 replicates gave bootstrap support values. The three analyses were mostly concordant with each other, especially well-establishing the relationship between sister genera Hypanartia and Vanessa.
This analysis built upon data analyses from the previous decades for the phylogenetic reconstruction of the butterfly subfamily Nymphalinae. Within the Nymphalidae family, the first support for the tribe Nymphalini as a monophyletic group was obtained using data from 161 species from 19 genera, DNA sequence data from three genes. namely the mitochondrial gene COI (Cytochrome Oxidase subunit I), and nuclear genes EF-1α (Elongation Factor 1 alpha) and wingless was obtained and combined, with gaps treated as fifth character states
Wahlberg, N., Brower, A. V., & NYLIN, S. (2005). Phylogenetic relationships and historical biogeography of tribes and genera in the subfamily Nymphalinae (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 86(2), 227-251.
. Eight trees were obtained, from which the most parsimonious tree was produced using Partitioned Bremer Support analysis, which was preferred over bootstrap values for the variability between 1 and infinity in the former. A dispersal-vicariance analysis showed that dispersal gave rise to the divergence of Nymphalidae across three biotic regions. The study then hypothesised that the ancestral species of Vanessa had a relatively widespread distribution and speciation resulted during periods of isolation due to climatic or other factors.
Then in 2011, the phylogeny for the genus Vanessa was constructed by Wahlberg & Rubinoff
Wahlberg, N., & Rubinoff, D. (2011). Vagility across Vanessa (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae): mobility in butterfly species does not inhibit the formation and persistence of isolated sister taxa. Systematic Entomology, 36(2), 362-370
, using one mitochondrial and eight nuclear protein coding genes. Bayesian topology was obtained with estimated divergence time from BEAST v1.5.2 analysis and the most parsimonious reconstruction was provided for the evolution of vagility in Vanessa species. A fossil Vanessa is known from the late Eocene, from ca 34 Ma
Miller, J. Y., & Brown, F. M. (1989). A new Oligocene fossil butterfly, Vanessa amerindica (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae), from the Florissant formation, Colorado. Bulletin of the Allyn Museum (USA).
, and has been used previously as a minimum age constraint for the split between the lineages leading to extant Vanessa and Hypanartia. Corresponding conclusion in this study used biogeographic data to reveal rapid expansions and inconsistent speciation within the genus Vanessa, where some lineages are constrained in speciation like V. cardui, but other taxa diverging into multiple species in different locality over time.
Comprehensive, dated, higher level phylogeny of butterflies inferred from genomic data, the history of phylogenetic analyses in the subfamily Nymphalinae exemplifies the increasing amount of resolution within larger clades. The most recent phylogenetic reconstruction by Su et al. (2017) conducted a concurrent analysis using DNA sequences, host plant divergence time and main evolutionary events after the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event 66 Ma. These analyses provided a well-encompassing estimates of possible basis for butterfly species divergence and global colonisation, namely warmer climates and angiosperm recovery.The original hypotheses of the time of divergence of Nymphalinae at 66 Ma (Wahlberg et al., 2005) was still supported in the most recent analysis (Su et al., 2017). Additionally, Su et al. (2017) showed that Vanessa diverged ca. 28.9 Ma and that Nymphalini colonised the New World in the Eocene from the Old World. This depicts the benefits of incorporating more data that is relevant for understanding the diversity of butterfly species observed today. Nonetheless, some of the groups remain unresolved, but the phylogenetic relationship of the vagrant V. cardui is well resolved over the past decades of phylogenetic analyses.
This page is authored by Loh Ling Sheng
Last curated on 2 Dec 2018