Butterflies of the Indian sub-continent

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Butterflies of the Indian sub-continent

By: Paul Van Gasse. Published: February 7, 2018

A checklist of the butterflies of the Indian sub-continent. Find more articles by clicking this link.


Some years ago, when I was looking for a good checklist of the butterflies of the Indian region, I had to conclude that no such dependable modern list existed. The last comprehensive list was still the one in Evans (1932), which included the whole Indian region and Burma. I then decided to make such a list myself, with the same geographical coverage. I started, of course, from the great Evans, then incorporating his revisions of the Hesperiidae and the Arhopala group of Lycaenidae, then Talbot for the Papilionidae, Pieridae, Danainae, Satyrinae, Amathusiinae, and Acraeinae, and then Cantlie for the Lycaenidae other than the Arhopala group. Then several later revisions were consulted and comparisons were made with several modern lists. Sequence, at least among genera, was largely based on Varshney (2010), though for families I prefer the sequence Hesperiidae-Papilionidae-Pieridae-Lycaenidae-Nymphalidae. In the list, I had included synonyms and full reference to Evans, since I had observed that many people still refer to that publication; this would then also apply to Wynter-Blyth's book, which basically used the same nomenclature as Evans. This was in 2013. I was fairly content with it, but kept the distributional info to a strict minimum.

More recently, I had some spare time and decided to make a new Annotated Checklist of the Butterflies of the Indian Subcontinent. I started from my old checklist, but decided to restrict myself this time to the ‘traditional’ Indian Subcontinent, viz., India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh, and to give a much more detailed distribution for the 1442 species, including updated status and altitudinal distribution.

I have mostly retained the sequence of the first work, as well as the references to Evans’s work, including synonyms. I have included the information given in many recent regional checklists – though some were not really that reliable and contained many obvious mistakes. The distributional data found on the Butterflies of India website have been most useful. All in all, I think the distributions I give are fairly reliable.

Finally, I think it wise to elaborated somewhat on the terms used in the distribution ranges. First, for the sake of brevity I have used ‘Kashmir’ for Jammu and Kashmir, but I have always mentioned Ladakh separately, in view of the special zoogeographical position of this region. So, when a species is given as occurring in ‘Kashmir’, that means that it occurs in Jammu and Kashmir but not in Ladakh, which is always mentioned separately. I have also tried to solve the ‘Sikkim/Darjeeling’ conundrum. When a species is said to occur in Sikkim, that really means present-day Sikkim. Those occurring in Darjeeling are included in ‘N West Bengal’, which means, besides Darjeeling, the whole area of West Bengal north of Bangladesh.

For NE India I have always mentioned Arunachal Pradesh separately, while ‘the rest of NE India’ means the other NE Indian states (Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura, and Mizoram). When a species is not known from one or more of these states, it is explicitly mentioned. Many species will be termed as occurring in NE India (except Tripura or Mizoram); this means that they have not been recorded, to my knowledge, from these states, but in many cases they will occur, since these are the least-known areas of the Northeast.

I have mostly not bothered with city states; thus, I have mostly treated Delhi under Haryana, Chandigarh under Punjab, and Puducherry under Tamil Nadu.

For Pakistan, I have still used the old North-West Frontier Province (NWFP in the text) to avoid always having to use both ‘Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’ and ‘Federally Administered Tribal Areas’. Also, I have used the old name Hazara for Abbottabad district, to avoid confusion with the town itself.

For each species I have generally listed the subspecies as they occur from north to south and from west to east, and also the range of each subspecies is given from north to south and from west to east.

The entire checklist can be downloaded here.


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