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Compton Tortoiseshell, Temagami.jpg
Compton tortoiseshell, N. vaualbum, Temagami, Ontario, Canada
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Nymphalidae
Tribe: Nymphalini
Kluk, 1780 [1]

Six, see text

  • EuvanessaScudder, 1889
  • RoddiaKorshunov,1995
  • AntiopanaKorb, 2005

Nymphalis, commonly known as the tortoiseshells or anglewing butterflies, is a genus of brush-footed butterflies. The genera Aglais , Inachis , Polygonia and Kaniska , were sometimes included as subgenera of Nymphalis [2] but they may instead be treated as distinct genera. [3] See also anglewing butterflies. For other butterflies named tortoiseshells, see the genus Aglais .

A genus is a taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, as well as viruses, in biology. In the hierarchy of biological classification, genus comes above species and below family. In binomial nomenclature, the genus name forms the first part of the binomial species name for each species within the genus.

Nymphalidae family of insects

The Nymphalidae are the largest family of butterflies with more than 6,000 species distributed throughout most of the world, belonging to the superfamily Papilionoidea. These are usually medium-sized to large butterflies. Most species have a reduced pair of forelegs and many hold their colourful wings flat when resting. They are also called brush-footed butterflies or four-footed butterflies, because they are known to stand on only four legs while the other two are curled up; in some species, these forelegs have a brush-like set of hairs, which gives this family its other common name. Many species are brightly coloured and include popular species such as the emperors, monarch butterfly, admirals, tortoiseshells, and fritillaries. However, the under wings are, in contrast, often dull and in some species look remarkably like dead leaves, or are much paler, producing a cryptic effect that helps the butterflies blend into their surroundings.

<i>Aglais</i> genus of brush-footed butterflies

Aglais is a Holarctic genus of brush-footed butterflies, containing the tortoiseshells. This genus is sometimes indicated as a subgenus of Nymphalisor simply being an unnecessary division from the nymphalis genus, which also includes tortoiseshells, but it is usually considered to be separate. This proposed separate genus is also consider “brushfooted butterflies” historically together with the other or separate nymphalis species.


The name Nymphalis, established by Jan Krzysztof Kluk in 1780, [4] is the oldest name among the generic names for a relatively small group of butterflies collectively known as anglewing butterflies. In zoological nomenclature, the oldest name has a priority over other names. The collective name anglewing butterflies is derived from a Latinised term Papiliones angulati. This name was probably used for the first time by Ignaz Schiffermüller in 1775–1776. The anglewing butterflies as a group are characterized by a cryptic silhouette and by the colouration and pattern on the ventral side of both wings. This signature mark is an important taxonomic characteristic as well as a significant evolutionary adaptation.

Jan Krzysztof Kluk Polish entomologist

Jan Krzysztof Kluk was a Polish naturalist agronomist and entomologist.

Ignaz Schiffermüller Austrian entomologist

Ignaz Schiffermüller was an Austrian naturalist mainly interested in Lepidoptera.

During winter months, in latitudes with snow cover, all members of this group hibernate as adult butterflies. [5] During hibernation, hidden in various shelters, the butterflies are dormant. The camouflage provided by crypsis is advantageous to hibernating butterflies. Potential predators will have difficulties in seeing the dormant butterflies. With their wings closed, exposing only the ventral cryptically coloured underside, they blend in with their surroundings.

Crypsis ability of an organism to avoid observation, detection

In ecology, crypsis is the ability of an animal to avoid observation or detection by other animals. It may be a predation strategy or an antipredator adaptation. Methods include camouflage, nocturnality, subterranean lifestyle and mimicry. Crypsis can involve visual, olfactory, or auditory concealment. When it is visual, the term cryptic coloration, effectively a synonym for animal camouflage, is sometimes used, but many different methods of camouflage are employed by animals.

Today, the anglewing butterflies are found only in the northern hemisphere. Carl Linnaeus described the first members of this group in 1758, and it has since become clear that anglewing butterflies evolved from a common ancestor. The most recent studies include Nylin et al., 2001; Wahlberg & Nylin, 2003; Wahlberg et al. 2011, 2009, 2005. The sister group of Nymphalis is Vanessa .

Carl Linnaeus Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist

Carl Linnaeus, also known after his ennoblement as Carl von Linné, was a Swedish botanist, zoologist, and physician who formalised binomial nomenclature, the modern system of naming organisms. He is known as the "father of modern taxonomy". Many of his writings were in Latin, and his name is rendered in Latin as Carolus Linnæus.

<i>Vanessa</i> (butterfly) A genus of brush-footed butterflies in the family Nymphalidae with a near-global distribution

Vanessa is a genus of brush-footed butterflies in the tribe Nymphalini. It has a near-global distribution and includes conspicuous species such as the red admirals, the Kamehameha, and the painted ladies of subgenus Cynthia: painted lady, American painted lady, West Coast lady, Australian painted lady, etc. For African admirals see genus, Antanartia. Recently, several members traditionally considered to be in the genus Antanartia have been determined to belong within the genus Vanessa.


Listed alphabetically: [2]

<i>Nymphalis antiopa</i> species of butterfly

Nymphalis antiopa, known as the mourning cloak in North America and the Camberwell beauty in Britain, is a large butterfly native to Eurasia and North America.

10th edition of <i>Systema Naturae</i> Book by Carl Linnaeus

The 10th edition of Systema Naturae is a book written by Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus and published in two volumes in 1758 and 1759, which marks the starting point of zoological nomenclature. In it, Linnaeus introduced binomial nomenclature for animals, something he had already done for plants in his 1753 publication of Species Plantarum.

Jean Baptiste Boisduval French lepidopterist

Jean Baptiste Alphonse Déchauffour de Boisduval was a French lepidopterist, botanist, and physician.

Images of species

<i>Nymphalis vaualbum</i> species of butterfly

Nymphalis vaualbum or N. l-album, the Compton tortoiseshell, or false comma, is a species of butterfly in the family Nymphalidae.

<i>Nymphalis xanthomelas</i> species of butterfly

Nymphalis xanthomelas, the scarce tortoiseshell, is a species of nymphalid butterfly found in eastern Europe and Asia. This butterfly is also referred as yellow-legged tortoiseshell or large tortoiseshell.

Related Research Articles

Small tortoiseshell species of insect

The small tortoiseshell is a colourful Eurasian butterfly in the family Nymphalidae. Adults feed on nectar and may hibernate over winter; in warmer climates they may have two broods in a season. While the dorsal surface of the wings is vividly marked, the ventral surface is drab, providing camouflage. Eggs are laid on the common nettle, on which the larvae feed.

<i>Polygonia</i> genus of insects

Polygonia is a genus of butterflies with a conspicuous white mark on the underside of each hindwing, hence the common name comma. They also have conspicuous angular notches on the outer edges of their forewings, hence the other common name anglewing butterflies. The related genus Nymphalis also includes some anglewing species; Polygonia is sometimes classified as a subgenus of Nymphalis.

Nymphalini tribe of insects

Nymphalini is a tribe of nymphalid brush-footed butterflies. Common names include admirals, anglewings, commas, and tortoiseshells, but none of these is specific to one particular genus.


  1. Nymphalis, ITIS Report
  2. 1 2 "Nymphalis Kluk, 1780" at Markku Savela's Lepidoptera and Some Other Life Forms
  3. http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/research/projects/lepindex/ Lepindex
  4. Nymphalis Kluk, [1780]. – Hist. nat. pocz. gospod. 4: 86. – TS: Papilio polychloros Linnaeus, 1758 Systema Naturae (Edn. 10) 1: 477. Subsequently designated by Hemming (1933), The Entomologist 66: 223.
  5. Scott, J. A. (1999). Hibernal diapause of North American Papilionoidea and Hesperioidea. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 18(3):171-200.