Neotropical Entomology

, Volume 41, Issue 6, pp 472–484 | Cite as

Taxonomy of Mechanitis (F.) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) from the West Colombian Andes: an Integrative Approach

  • C E Giraldo
  • S I Uribe
Systematics, Morphology and Physiology


Species identification in the butterfly genus Mechanitis (F.) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) becomes difficult when it is based only on wing color patterns, a common practice in butterfly taxonomy. Difficulties in Mechanitis taxonomy are related to the widespread mimicry and polymorphism among species belonging to this genus. Species recognition and inventories of Mechanitis genus in geographic areas as the Andean region of Colombia are of particular interest and the use of more than one character for taxonomic identification is desirable. In this study, we included morphological, ecological, and mitochondrial DNA data to identify the occurring species in this region. Species of Mechanitis were studied from ecological, morphological, and molecular perspectives considering host plant identification, oviposition behavior, and life cycles under laboratory conditions. Immature morphology, patterns of wing color, and genital structures of adults were also studied. The genetic barcoding region of the cytochrome oxidase I mitochondrial gene was sequenced and used to verify the limits between species previously defined by the other characters and to validate its usefulness for species delimitation in this particular genus. The integrative approach combining independent datasets successfully allowed species identification as compared to the approach based on a single dataset. Three well-differentiated species were found in the studied region, Mechanitis menapis (Hewitson), Mechanitis polymnia (Linnaeus), and Mechanitis lysimnia (Fabricius). New valuable characters that could improve taxonomic identification in this genus are considered.


Cryptic species DNA barcoding host plants immature stages 



We thank Keith Willmott for his support, training and hospitality. We also thank Marianne Elias who encouraged us to continue studying Mechanitis in Colombia, to Michael Nee for help with host plant identity confirmation, Jean Francois Lecrom for providing some specimens and for his appreciations about Mechanitis taxonomy, Natalia Ruiz for help with lab work and to the Herbariums MEDEL (Universidad Nacional de Colombia sede Medellín) and HUA (Universidad de Antioquia). Finally, we thank the Sciences School and Entomology postgraduate program at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia sede Medellín and to The Lepidoptera Research Foundation, INC. for its grants for students (Feb 16, 2009). This work was supported by the Direction for Investigation Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Medellin, DIME grant 20101007738 and for the Fundación BBVA (MARIPOSA Proyect: BIOCON08_021)


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Copyright information

© Sociedade Entomológica do Brasil 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Grupo de Investigación en Sistemática Molecular, Lab de Biología y Sistemática de InsectosUniv Nacional de Colombia, Sede MedellínMedellínColombia

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