name = Longwings

image_width = 240px
image_caption = Mimicry in "Heliconius"
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Arthropoda
classis = Insecta
ordo = Lepidoptera
superfamilia = Papilionoidea
unranked_familia = Rhopalocera
familia = Nymphalidae
subfamilia = Heliconiinae
subfamilia_authority = Swainson, 1822
subdivision_ranks = Tribes
subdivision =



and see text
synonyms =Heliconiidae Swainson, 1822

The Heliconiinae, commonly called heliconians or longwings, are a subfamily of the brush-footed butterflies (family Nymphalidae). They can be divided into 45-50 genera and were sometimes treated as a separate family Heliconiidae within the Papilionoidea. The coloration is predominantly reddish and black, and though of varying wing shape, the forewings are always elongated tipwards, hence the common name.

Most longwings are found in the Tropics, particularly in South America; only the Argynnini are quite diverse in the Holarctic. Especially tropical species feed on poisonous plants, characteristically Passifloraceae vines, as larvae, becoming poisonous themselves. The adult butterflies announce their acquired toxicity with strong aposematic colors, warning off would-be predators. There are several famous cases of Batesian and Müllerian mimicry both within this group and with other butterflies. Other commonly-seen foodplants are Fabaceae (which also contain several toxic species), and particularly among northernly species Violaceae.Silva-Brandão "et al." (2008)]


Four or five tribes are generally recognized in the Heliconiinae. There have been numerous attempts to sort out the phylogenetic sequence and delimitation of these, but while the former has made good progress, the latter has hitherto only achieved limited results.

Several phylogenies (and corresponding taxonomic adjustments) have been proposed, but though looking reasonable each and every one of them is only weakly supported. Even cladistic analyses of the same type of data often yield contradicting results depending on the exact method of evaluation. Ultimately, the reason is that just a fraction of the evolutionary diversity of Heliconiinae has been sampled.

What appears fairly certain is that the Argynnini and Vagrantini is closer relatives than any other two tribes of Heliconiinae. The Acraeini and Heliconiini are probably more basal lineages, but the exact placement of each respective to the other tribes cannot be considered well-resolved at all.

Some tribes are distributed among several continents, resulting in a confusing phylogeography pattern. But as it seems, the apparent contradictions between systematics and biogeography are due the premature classifications based on insufficient taxon sampling. With studies becoming more and more comprehensive, the apparent anomalies seem to sort themselves out at least for the most part. For example, the confusing distribution pattern of "Acraea" in the wide circumscription is apparently simply due to te bulk of this morphologically conservative group warranting recognition as genus "Telchinia" – it stands to note that this group has on occasion been allied with "Actinote" rather than "Acraea", and this indeed appears to be correct.

In addition, the genus "Pardopsis", often placed in the Acraeini, does almost certainly not belong there; it might better be placed in the Argynnini. The relationships of the genus "Cethosia" (sometimes treated as a tribe of its own) are even more mysterious, and it is likely that some other genera will eventually also be moved to a different tribe as they are studied in detail. Some, like the Argynnini "Argynnis", "Boloria" and "Issoria", might be overlumped and non-monophyletic and thus some genera presently usually considered junior synonyms of them might eventually be validated like "Telchinia".


Genera are presented in the presumed phylogenetic sequence. Notable species are also given if no genus article exists. [Based on Wahlberg [2008] , Silva-Brandão "et al." (2008). See also Savela (2008) for further sources.]

Acraeini Boisduval, 1833
* "Bematistes" Hemming 1935
* "Acraea" (paraphyletic)
* "Miyana" Fruhstorfer 1914 (tentatively paced here)
* "Actinote" Hübner 1819 (including "Abananote" and "Altinote" )

Heliconiini Swainson, 1822
* "Philaethria" Billberg 1820
* "Podotricha" Michener 1942
* "Dione" Hübner 1819
* "Agraulis" Boisduval & Le Conte 1835
** Gulf Fritillary, "Agraulis vanillae"
* "Dryadula" – Banded Orange
* "Dryas" – Julia Heliconian
* "Eueides" Hübner 1816
** Isabella's Heliconian, "Eueides isabella"
* "Heliconius" (including "Laparus", "Nerula")

Vagrantini Pinratana & Eliot, 1996
* "Lachnoptera" Doubleday 1847
* "Phalanta" Horsfield 1829
** Small Leopard, "Phalanta alcippe"
* "Smerina" Hewitson 1874
* "Vindula" – cruisers Hemming 1934
** "Vindula arsinoe"
** "Vindula erota"
* "Cirrochroa" Doubleday 1847
** Large Yeoman, "Cirrochroa aoris"
** Tamil Yeoman, "Cirrochroa thais"
* "Algiachroa" Parsons 1989
* "Algia" Herrich-Schäffer 1864
* "Terinos" Boisduval 1836
* "Cupha" Billberg 1820
* "Vagrans" Hemming 1934
** Vagrant, "Vagrans egista"

Argynnini (about 7 genera)

"Incertae sedis"
* "Cethosia" Fabricius 1807 – lacewings
** Red Lacewing, "Cethosia biblis"
** Leopard Lacewing, "Cethosia cyane"
** Tamil Lacewing, "Cethosia nietneri"
* "Pardopsis" Trimen 1887 (probably Argynnini)



* (1981): The biology of "Heliconius" and related genera. "Annu. Rev. Entomol." 26: 427-456. doi|10.1146/annurev.en.26.010181.002235 [http://www.bioquest.org/summer2007/sessionC/BiologyOfHeliconius1981.pdf PDF fulltext]
* (2004): "The Butterfly Handbook": 130. Barron's Educational Series, Inc., Hauppauge, New York. ISBN 0-7641-5714-0
* (2008): Markku Savela's Lepidoptera and some other life forms – [http://www.funet.fi/pub/sci/bio/life/insecta/lepidoptera/ditrysia/papilionoidea/nymphalidae/heliconiinae/index.html Heliconiinae] . Version of 2008-FEB-09. Retrieved 2008-AUG-14.
* (2008): Phylogenetic relationships of butterflies of the tribe Acraeini (Lepidoptera, Nymphalidae, Heliconiinae) and the evolution of host plant use. "Mol. Phylogenet. Evol." 46(2): 515-531. doi|10.1016/j.ympev.2007.11.024 (HTML abstract)
* [2008] : Nymphalidae.net – [http://www.nymphalidae.net/Classification/Higher_class.htm The higher classification of Nymphalidae] . Retrieved 2008-AUG-14.

External links

* [http://tolweb.org/Heliconiinae/12194 Tree of Life Heliconiinae]
* [http://www.heliconius.co.uk/ Heliconius Butterfly Website]
* [http://www.heliconius.org/ Heliconius Genomics Project]
* [http://www.ucl.ac.uk/taxome/jim/helicinf.htm/ Information about Heliconius]
* [http://creatures.ifas.ufl.edu/bfly/zebra_longwing.htm "Heliconius charitonia", zebra longwing] on the UF / IFAS Featured Creatures Web site

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