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Field Crescent (Phyciodes campestris?) - Phyciodes pulchella - male

Field Crescent (Phyciodes campestris?) - Phyciodes pulchella - Male
UC Big Creek Reserve, Big Sur, Monterey County, California, USA
June 3, 2011
Found on a NABA butterfly count. Our group referred to the taxon here as Phyciodes campetris, which is apparently treated as a synonym now on BugGuide and elsewhere. But Phyciodes campestris is also used in the relatively recent book by Shapiro(1). Perhaps there's not universal agreement on the basis for the synonomy?

Images of this individual: tag all
Field Crescent (Phyciodes campestris?) - Phyciodes pulchella - male Field Crescent (Phyciodes campestris?) - Phyciodes pulchella

Some taxonomic debates die hard, and go on for many years.
A quick summation on why one usually wins over the others (for those who don't want to search for and read the whole debate).

The specific arguments in favor of P. campestris (or for P. pratensis) involve the typification of the name and validity of the original description. (In other words - was P. pulchella a legally published name? And, for which species?) Regardless, the conclusion generally accepted now is that all three names represent the same single species. Since P pulchella was described in 1852 and the other two in 1863, the name pulchella wins.

The Kondla paper does not address the name P. campestris, but the same argument applies (the argument actually has to do with the true identity of the name P. pulchella. It is worth a quick read.

More on Ph. campestris vs Ph. pulchella
As mentioned in the remarks written with the post... Shapiro(1), and very knowledgeable members of the NABA Butterfly Count I was on, have referred to this butterfly as Phycoides campestris.

Regarding these two names, I found a link to a 1974 note by J. W. Tilden in the Jounrnal of the Lepidopterists' Society, arguing for the use of epithet campestris over pulchellus.

That's just a tidbit of the whole discussion over time...apparently other arguments/opinions have been put forth and prevailed, since many web sites currently treat Ph. campestris as a synonym for Ph. pulchellus, for instance: ITIS; Discover Life. For more details, scroll down to the "Synonomy" and "Bibliography" sections of this web page from the (excellent!) "Butterflies of America" website.

One of the more recent notes on this topic (Condla & Guppy, 2002) can be found as a PDF here. (Though it doesn't mention the epithet campestris, but only focuses on arguing that pratensis=pulchellus.)

I guess it can be dangerous to ask a taxonomist: "What's in a name?" :-)

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