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Title: Riodinidae  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Abisara echerius, Butterfly, List of butterflies of India (Riodinidae), Abisara aita, Abisara cameroonensis
Collection: Insect Families, Lepidoptera Families, Riodinidae
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Riodinidae.Plate XXXV1 Reise der Osterreichischen Fregatte Novara um die Erde (1861–1876)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Suborder: Ditrysia
Infraorder: Rhopalocera
Superfamily: Papilionoidea
Family: Riodinidae
Grote, 1895

Nemeobiinae (but see text)

Riodinidae is the family of metalmark butterflies. The common name "metalmarks" refers to the small metallic-looking spots commonly found on their wings. There are 1532 species and 146 genera of metalmark butterflies in the world.[1] Although mostly neotropical in distribution, the family is represented both in the Nearctic and the Palearctic.


  • Description 1
  • Distinguishing features 2
  • Taxonomy and systematics 3
    • Subfamilies 3.1
    • Genera of uncertain position 3.2
  • Biology 4
  • Life cycle 5
    • Foodplants 5.1
  • Economic significance 6
  • Footnotes 7
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10


The family includes small to medium-sized species, from 12 to 60 mm wingspan, often with vibrant structural colouring. The wing shape is very different within the family. They may resemble butterflies in other groups, some are similar to Satyrinae, some are bright yellow reminiscent of Coliadinae and others (examples Barbicornis, Rhetus arcius, Helicopis, Chorinea) have tails as do Papilionidae . The colouration ranges from muted colours in the temperate zone species to iridescent blue and green wings and transparent wings in tropical species[2] The golden or silvery metallic spots on the wings in many species of the Americas gave them the English common name "Metalmarks". A number of species mimic poisonous moths of several families and there are often extensive mimicry rings of similar-looking species, grouped around a model.[3] Mimicry causes are often closely related species to have completely different wing patterns, for example the genus Thisbe[4] Many species mimic the stain and stripe pattern of toxic (Nymphalidae). Batesian mimicry seems to be more common than in any other insect family of similar size[5] Reasons for this are unknown. Another example is Ithomeis where different subspecies resemble the species they mimic in different parts of the geographic range more than they resemble each other.

The delimitation from the closely related Lycaenidae by morphological autapomorphy is difficult .[6] The first pair of legs of the males, which arises on the prothorax, is less than half as long as the legs of the pterothorax and they are not used for walking. The individual segments of the tarsus are sometimes fused together and fused with the tibia, and the pretarsi have no claws. This feature is also found in some Lycaenidae(and also the Monotrysia), but in these the legs are always much longer. The sensory hairs on the tarsi of the female forelimbs are arranged in a group. These groups which are arranged in pairs can be found in the other taxa of the Papilionoidea. The third problematic apomorphy is the absence of the rear projections (apophyses) of the female genitalia. This feature (absence) is found as well in some species of the subfamily of Poritiinae.

In almost all Riodinidae, the coxae of the front legs are extended males jutting out over the trochanter (only hinted at in Styx infernalis and Corrachia leucoplaga ). If there are similar projections in Lycaenidae (in genera Curetis, Feniseca, Poritia), they are built differently in detail and may be, for example dorsally convex ).[7] In addition, almost all Riodinidae in contrast to the Lycaenidae have a humeral vein in the hind wings and the costa is thickened (exceptions in the subfamily Hamearinae). The head in relation to the eyes is wider than in Lycaenidae, making the antennal bases further away from the eye. The relatively long antennae often reach half of the front wing length.

Riodinidae have an unusual variety in chromosome numbers, only some very basal groups have the number typical for butterflies (n = 29-31) or the n characteristic of Lycaenidae (n = 23 to 24). Numbers between 9 and 110 occur. In some cases, representatives of a morphologically indistinguishable cryptospecies have different chromosome numbers and are reproductively isolated.

Distinguishing features

Like the lycaenids, the males of this family have reduced forelegs while the females have full-sized, fully functional forelegs. The foreleg of males is often reduced and has a uniquely shaped first segment (the coxa) which extends beyond its joint with the second segment, rather than meeting it flush. They have a unique venation on the hindwing: the costa of the hind wing is thickened out to the humeral angle and the humeral vein is short.[8]

Taxonomy and systematics

Riodinidae is currently treated as a distinct family within the superfamily Papilionoidea, but in the past they were held to be the subfamily Riodininae of the Lycaenidae. Earlier, they were considered to be part of the now defunct family Erycinidae, whose species are divided between this family and the subfamily Libytheinae.

Today, most systematists prefer to accept an independent family even if there are counter-arguments.[9] Based on morphological studies Ackery et al.[10] in the manual of Zoology (Kristensen 1998, cf. literature) placed Riodininae within the Lycaenidae. Kristensen et al.[11] accepted the updating of the manual in 2007 raising the classification to family rank at least on a provisional basis .

Molecular phylogenetics(based on homologous DNA sequences) establishes a sister group relationship between the Riodinidae and the Lycaenidae accepted almost unanimously.[12][13][14]


Duke of Burgundy
Hamearis lucina

The family Riodinidae consists of three subfamilies. They are:

Genera of uncertain position

Several genera, namely from the Old World, are of more uncertain affiliations; some of them are monotypic. Such Riodinidae incertae sedis are:[16]

The fossil genus Lithopsyche is sometimes placed here but sometimes in the Lycaenidae.

Amazonas tropical rainforest is the habitat for most species of Riodinidae


Species occur in a variety of different habitats, but have a unique distribution focus in the tropical rain forests of South America.[17] Many species are rarely found and have a relatively small distribution area. Species of the genus Charis were therefore used to reconstruct the history of the forest of the Amazon basin: each of the 19 species has a vicariant distribution area, three originally separate forests (upper, lower Amazonas, Guyana) can be derived from the relationship of between the species.[18]

The food plants for the caterpillars include total more than 40 different plant families. Mostly young leaves or flowers are used, and rarely fallen, dead leaves or lichen are eaten. The larvae feed mostly individually not gregariously. However, gregarious caterpillars are found within the Euselasiinae (Euselasia), Riodinini (Melanis) and Emesini (Emesis), with some species demonstrating processionary behaviors. Available evidence from Euselasia and Hades suggests the gregarious trait may be widespread among members of the subfamily Euselasiinae.[19]

The larva of Setabis lagus (Riodininae: Nymphidiini), is predatory. There are records of predation on larvae of Horiola sp. (family Membracidae) as well as scale insects (Coccidae). Predatory feeding has also been shown in Alesa amesis.[20] A number of species associate and are protected by ants during one or more stages of their life cycle. [21]

A study in Ecuador based on adult male feeding records for 124 species in 41 genera of Riodinidae (out of a total of 441 species in 85 genera collected in the study) demonstrated that rotting fish and other carrion was the most frequently used food source in terms of numbers of individuals and taxa, attracting 89 species from 32 genera. Other food substrates visited in this study included flowers, damp sand or mud puddling[22]

Life cycle

The eggs vary in shape but often appear round and flattened, some have the shape of a dome or a turban. They are similar to the eggs of Lycaenidae. The caterpillars are usually hairy, plump, and are the common overwintering stage. The caterpillars are usually longer than those of the Lycaenidae except in the myrmecophilous species.Pupae are hairy and attached with silk to either the host plant or to ground debris or leaf litter. There is no cocoon.

Several genera of Riodinidae have evolved intimate associations with ants, and their larvae are tended and defended by ant associates. This also is the case with several linages of Lycaenidae and contributed to arguments for the uniting the two families. It is now recognized that myrmecophily arose several times among Riodinidae and Lycaenidae clades. But there are counter arguments.

Like their sister family Lycaenidae, numerous species of Riodinidae are myrmecophiles (involving about 280 ant species). The larvae of many species have special organs, of which have a soothing or tempting effect on ants. Many Riodinidae larvae have so-called "tentacle nectary organs" on the eighth segment of the abdomen that secrete a fluid which is eaten by ants. Other tentacle organs on the third thoracic segment have been shown to emit homologous in origin. [23]


The larvae feed on plants of the families Araceae, Asteraceae, Bromeliaceae, Bombacaceae, Cecropiaceae, Clusiaceae, Dilleniaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Fabaceae, Lecythidaceae, Loranthaceae, Malpighiaceae, Marantaceae, Melastomataceae, Myrtaceae, Orchidaceae, Rubiaceae, Sapindaceae, Zingiberaceae as well as bryophytes and lichens.[24]

Economic significance

The importance of Riodinidae species considered pests is very low. Some species of Euselasiinae feed on Myrtaceae of economic importance such as guava. A few Riodininae are specified as harmful to farmed Bromeliceae or Orchidaceae.


  1. ^ Erik J. van Nieukerken, Lauri Kaila, Ian J. Kitching, Niels P. Kristensen, David C. Lees, Joël Minet, Charles Mitter, Marko Mutanen, Jerome C. Regier, Thomas J. Simonsen, Niklas Wahlberg, Shen-Horn Yen, Reza Zahiri, David Adamski, Joaquin Baixeras, Daniel Bartsch, Bengt Å. Bengtsson, John W. Brown, Sibyl Rae Bucheli, Donald R. Davis, Jurate De Prins, Willy De Prins, Marc E. Epstein, Patricia Gentili-Poole, Cees Gielis, Peter Hättenschwiler, Axel Hausmann, Jeremy D. Holloway, Axel Kallies, Ole Karsholt, Akito Y. Kawahara, Sjaak (J.C.) Koster, Mikhail V. Kozlov, J. Donald Lafontaine, Gerardo Lamas, Jean-François Landry, Sangmi Lee, Matthias Nuss, Kyu-Tek Park, Carla Penz, Jadranka Rota, Alexander Schintlmeister, B. Christian Schmidt, Jae-Cheon Sohn, M. Alma Solis, Gerhard M. Tarmann, Andrew D. Warren, Susan Weller, Roman V. Yakovlev, Vadim V. Zolotuhin, Andreas Zwick (2011): Order Lepidoptera Linnaeus, 1758. In: Zhang, Z.-Q. (Editor) Animal biodiversity: An outline of higher-level classification and survey of taxonomic richness. Zootaxa 3148: 212-221.
  2. ^ Thomas C. Emmel, Edward S. Ross (Hrsg.): Wunderbare und geheimnisvolle Welt der Schmetterlinge. 1. Auflage. Bertelsmann, Gütersloh und Berlin 1976 (übersetzt von Irmgard Jung), ISBN 3-570-00893-2.
  3. ^ Mathieu Joron (2008): Batesian Mimicry: Can a Leopard Change Its Spots — and Get Them Back? Current Biology Volume 18, Issue 11: R476–R479. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2008.04.009
  4. ^ Carla M. Penz & Philip J. DeVries (2001): A phylogenetic reassessment of Thisbe and Uraneis butterflies (Riodinidae, Nymphidiini). Contributions in Science 485: 1-27.
  5. ^ K.S. Brown Jr., B. von Schoultz, A.O. Saura, A. Saura (2012): Chromosomal evolution in the South American Riodinidae (Lepidoptera: Papilionoidea). Hereditas 149: 128–138. doi:10.1111/j.1601-5223.2012.02250.x ..
  6. ^ Rienk de Jong, Philip R. Ackery, Richard I. Vane-Wright (1996):The higher classification of butterflies (Lepidoptera): problems and prospects. Insect Systematics & Evolution, Volume 27, Issue 1: 65 – 101. doi:10.1163/187631296X00205.
  7. ^ Robert K. Robbins (1988): Comparative morphology of the butterfly foreleg coxa and trochanter (Lepidoptera) and its systematic implications. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 90 (2): 133-154..
  8. ^ Borror et al. (1989)
  9. ^ Zhao F, Huang DY, Sun XY, Shi QH, Hao JS, Zhang LL, Yang Q. (2013): The first mitochondrial genome for the butterfly family Riodinidae (Abisara fylloides) and its systematic implications. Zoological Research 34 (E4−5): E109−E119. doi:10.11813/j.issn.0254-5853.2013.E4−5.E109
  10. ^ Philip R. Ackery, Rienk de Jong, Richard I. Vane-Wright: The Butterflies: Hedyloidea, Hesperioidea, Papilionoidea. In: Niels P. Kristensen (editor): Lepidoptera, Moths and Butterflies. Volume 1: Evolution, Systematics, and Biogeography. Walter de Gruvter, Berlin & New York 1999. vgl. pp. 283-284
  11. ^ Niels P. Kristensen, Malcolm J. Scoble, Ole Karsholt (2007): Lepidoptera phylogeny and systematics: the state of inventorying moth and butterfly diversity. Zootaxa 1668: 699–747.
  12. ^ Dana L. Campbell and Naomi E. Pierce (2003): Phylogenetic relationships of the Riodinidae: Implications for the evolution of ant association. In: C. Boggs, P. Ehrlich, W.B. Watt (editors). Butterflies as Model Systems. Chicago University Press: 395-408. download
  13. ^ Niklas Wahlberg, Michael F Braby, Andrew V.Z Brower, Rienk de Jong, Ming-Min Lee, Sören Nylin, Naomi E Pierce, Felix A.H Sperling, Roger Vila, Andrew D Warren and Evgueni Zakharov (2005): Synergistic effects of combining morphological and molecular data in resolving the phylogeny of butterflies and skippers. Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B 272: 1577-1586. doi:10.1098/rspb.2005.3124
  14. ^ aria Heikkilä, Lauri Kaila, Marko Mutanen, Carlos Peña, Niklas Wahlberg (2012) Cretaceous origin and repeated tertiary diversification of the redefined butterflies. Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B 279: 1093-1099. doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.1430
  15. ^ Hall, J.P.W. (2004b)
  16. ^ See Savela (2007) for references.
  17. ^ J.P.W. Hall (2004): Metalmark Butterflies (Lepidoptera: Riodinidae) In J.L. Capinera (editor) Encyclopedia of Entomology, Vol. 2 Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2004. pp. 1383–1386.
  18. ^ Jason P.W. Hall & Donald J. Harvey (2002): The phylogeography of Amazonia revisited: new evidence from Riodinid butterflies. Evolution, 56(7): 1489–1497.
  19. ^ P.J. DeVries, I.A. Chacon & D. Murray (1992) Toward a better understanding of host use and biodiversity in riodinid butterflies (Lepidoptera). Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera, 31(1-2):103-126.
  20. ^ DeVries, P.J. & C.M. Penz. 2000. Entomophagy, behavior, and elongated thoracic legs in the myrmecophilous Neotropical butterfly Alesa amesis (Riodinidae). Biotropica 32: 712-721.
  21. ^ DeVries, P. J. 1997. The Butterflies of Costa Rica and their Natural History. II: Riodinidae. Princeton Univ. Press, New Jersey, pp. 288.
  22. ^ Jason P.W. Hall & Keith R. Willmott (2000): Patterns of feeding behaviour in adult male riodinid butterflies and their relationship to morphology and ecology. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 69: 1–23. doi:10.1006/bijl.1999.0345.
  23. ^ DeVries, P. J. 1991. Ecological and evolutionary patterns in riodinid butterflies. IN: Ant-Plant Interactions. C. Huxley & D. F. Cutler (eds.) Oxford Univ. Press, pp. 143-156.
  24. ^ DeVries, P.J. (2001): [Riodinidae]. In Levin, S.A. (ed.): Encyclopaedia of Biodiversity. Academic Press.


  • Borror, Donald J.; Triplehorn, Charles A. & Johnson, Norman F. (1989): An introduction to the study of insects (6th ed.). Philadelphia: Saunders College Pub. ISBN 0-03-025397-7.
  • DeVries, P.J. (1997): Butterflies of Costa Rica and their natural history. Vol 2 Riodinidae. Princeton University Press.
  • Hall, J.P.W. (2004b): Metalmark Butterflies (Lepidoptera: Riodinidae), pp. 1383–1386. In J.L. Capinera (ed.) Encyclopedia of Entomology, Vol. 2. (PDF)
  • Savela, Markku (2007): Markku Savela's Lepidoptera and some other life forms: Riodinidae. Version of 2007-AUG-07. Retrieved 2007-SEP-09.

Further reading

  • Charles A. Bridges, 1994. Catalogue of the family-group, genus-group and species-group names of the Riodinidae & Lycaenidae (Lepidoptera) of the world Urbana, Ill. :C.A. Bridges pdf
  • Campbell, D. L. & Pierce, N. E. 2003: Chapter 18: Phylogenetic Relationships of the Riodinidae:Implications for the Evolution of Ant Association. Pp. 395–408. – In: Boggs, C. L.,Watt, B. & Ehrlich, P. R. (eds): Butterflies. Ecology and Evolution Taking Flight. The University of Chicago Press, Cambridge University Press, Chicago and London pdf
  • Glassberg, Jeffrey Butterflies through Binoculars, The West (2001)
  • Guppy, Crispin S. and Shepard, Jon H. Butterflies of British Columbia (2001)
  • James, David G. and Nunnallee, David Life Histories of Cascadia Butterflies (2011)
  • Pelham, Jonathan Catalogue of the Butterflies of the United States and Canada (2008)
  • Pyle, Robert Michael The Butterflies of Cascadia (2002)
  • Seitz, A., 1916. Family:Erycinidae. In A. Seitz (editor), Macrolepidoptera of the world,vol. 5: 617–738. Stuttgart: Alfred Kernen.[2] also available as pdf. Out of date but very useful.

External links

  • Riodinidae in French
  • Images representing Riodinidae at eol
  • TOL - Implied clade links to species lists.
  • TOL Images 3 pages.
  • LEPINDEX Taxonomy project of Natural History Museum, London
  • Barcode of Life Includes images.
  • Idaho Museum of Natural History
  • , little metalmarkCalephelis virginiensis on the UF / IFAS Featured Creatures Web site
  • Mariposas mexicana Excellent high resolution images of Mexican Riodinidae
  • Flickr Riodinidae
  • Neotropical Butterflies Metalmark Gallery
  • Butterflies of America Images of type specimens
  • Butterflies and Moths of North America
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