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Erebia ligea01.jpg
Arran brown (type species)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Nymphalidae
Subfamily: Satyrinae
Tribe: Satyrini
Subtribe: Erebiina
Genus: Erebia
Dalman, 1816
Type species
Papilio ligea
Linnaeus, 1758
Around 100 species

Atercoloratus Bang-Haas, 1938
Epigea Hübner, [1819]
Gorgo Hübner, [1819]
Marica Hübner, [1819]
Medusia Verity, 1953
Phorcis Hübner, [1819]
Simplicia Verity, 1953 (non Guenée, 1854: preoccupied)
Syngea Hübner, [1819]
Triariia Verity, 1953
Truncaefalcia Verity, 1953

Erebia is a Holarctic genus of brush-footed butterflies, family Nymphalidae. Most of the about 90–100 species (see also below) are dark brown or black in color, with reddish brown to orange or more rarely yellowish wing blotches or bands. These usually bear black spots within, which sometimes have white center spots.

This genus has found it easy to adapt to arid and especially cold conditions. Most of its members are associated with high-altitude lands, forest clearings or high latitude and tundra. Erebia species are frequent in the Alps, Rocky Mountains, subarctic and even arctic regions, and the cooler parts of Central Asia. In fact, the North American term for these butterflies is "alpines". Eurasian species are collectively known as "ringlets" or "arguses". However, none of these terms is used exclusively for this genus.

Taxonomy and systematics[edit]

The genus Erebia was erected by Johan Wilhelm Dalman in 1816. As type species, the Arran brown—described as Papilio ligea by Linnaeus in 1758—was chosen. This is a very complex genus with over 1300 taxa, but a massive proportion of these are junior synonyms. Some of the available names are listed by Vladimir Lukhtanov.[1] A fully comprehensive taxonomic checklist (i.e., without discussing synonymy and relationships) was published in 2008.[2]

Only three years after the genus' inception, the known species were reviewed by Jacob Hübner.[3] He established no less than five new genera for a fraction of what would eventually be named as "species" of Erebia. But things hardly improved as more and more of the diversity of these butterflies came to note. In Europe, a large number of Erebia taxa was described from the Alps. In the 19th and early 20th century the Alps were a popular destination for butterfly collectors and specimens of Alpine butterflies were very profitable for dealers. The dealers, mostly German, not only sold specimens, but were entomologists, entomological book dealers, entomological authors and publishers. Examples are Fritz Rühl, Alexander Heyne, Otto Staudinger, Andreas and Otto Bang-Haas and, in Paris, Achille and Émile Deyrolle.

This, together with the then-popular, even obsessive study of variation by entomologists – examples are James William Tutt, George Wheeler, Felix Bryk and Brisbane Charles Somerville Warren – led to very many names being applied to what may be or much more likely may not be biological species or subspecies. A further problem is the use of the term "variety". Authors of that time used this for an individual variant, a group of individuals morphologically but not otherwise related, seasonal forms, temperature-related forms, or geographic races; it was later usually taken to mean the last subspecies though this is often suspected to have been premature.

Eventually, it became common to arrange supposed species and subspecies to "species groups" (not superspecies, but an informal phenetic arrangement) as pioneered by B.C.S. Warren,[4] and attempt to resolve their true nature by and by. As molecular phylogenetic studies add to the available data, it is becoming clear that most "varieties" that have at least been commonly considered subspecies in the latter 20th century are indeed lineages distinct enough to warrant some formal degree of recognition. Another result of recent research is confirmation of the theory that this genus contains many glacial relict taxa, e.g., in the "brassy ringlet" group (E. tyndarus and similar species).[5]

The number of currently recognized Erebia species is given variously around 90-100, as developments happen so fast that it is hard for authors to remain up to date regarding the newest changes.[5]

Species list[edit]

As of early 2008, the following good species and some rather distinct subspecies are listed:[6]


Erebia comparison[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lukhtanov [2008]
  2. ^ Tennent (2008)
  3. ^ Hübner [1819]
  4. ^ Warren (1936)
  5. ^ a b Albre et al. (2008)
  6. ^ Brower (2006), Albre et al. (2008), and see Savela (2008) for more sources
  7. ^ Brock, Jim P. and K. Kaufman (2003). Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America. New York, NY:Houghton Mifflin.


  • Albre, Jerome; Gers, Charles & Legal, Luc (2008). Molecular phylogeny of the Erebia tyndarus (Lepidoptera, Rhopalocera, Nymphalidae, Satyrinae) species group combining CoxII and ND5 mitochondrial genes: A case study of a recent radiation. Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 47(1): 196–210. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2008.01.009 (HTML abstract)
  • Brower, Andrew V.Z. (2006). Tree of Life Web Project - Erebia. Version of 2006-NOV-28. Retrieved 2008-AUG-11.
  • Hübner, Jacob [1819]. [Several new genera for Erebia]. In: Verzeichniss bekannter Schmettlinge [sic] (Vol.4): 62-64.
  • Lukhtanov, Vladimir [2008]. Palaearctic Butterfly Checklist - Nymphalidae: Satyrinae. Version of 2008-FEB-04. Retrieved 2008-AUG-11.
  • Savela, Markku (2008). Markku Savela's Lepidoptera and some other life forms - Erebia. Version of 2008-MAR-15. Retrieved 2008-AUG-11.
  • Tennent, W. John (2008). A checklist of the satyrine genus Erebia (Lepidoptera) (1758–2006). Zootaxa 1900: 1-109. PDF contents, abstract and first page text
  • Warren, Brisbane Brisbane Charles Somerville (1936). Monograph of the genus Erebia. British Museum of Natural History, London.

External links[edit]