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Vladimir Nabokov about butterflies

Владимир Набоков о бабочках



In connection with "Blues," I wish to correct two or three slips in Professor Alexander B. Klots' important and delightful hook (A Field Guide to the Butterflies of North America, East of the Great Plains, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1951). On p. 166 there is a misprint: "Center (formerly Karner)" should be, of course, "Karner (formerly Center)." Incidentally I visit the place every time I happen to drive (as I do yearly in early June) from lthaca to Boston and can report that, despite local picnickers and the hideous garbage they leave, the lupines and Lycaeides samuelis Nab. are still doing as fine under those old gnarled pines along the railroad as they did ninety years ago. On p. 165, another, more unfortunate transposition occurs: "When fawn colored, more vivid in tone" should refer not to Lycaeides argyrognomon {idas\ but to L. melissa, while "wings beneath, when fawn colored, duller in tone" should refer not to L. melissa but to L. argyrognomon {Idas] (see my "Nearctic Lycaeides," Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool., vol. 101: p. 541:1949). On pp. 162-164, the genus Brephidium (in company with two others) is incorrectly placed between Hemiargus and Lycaeides. I have shown in my paper on Neotropical Plebejinae (Psyche, vol. 52: pp. 1-61; 1945) that Hemiargus {sensu lato) and Lycaeides belong to the same group (subfamily Plebejinae-- or supergenus Plebejus; the rank does not matter but the relationship does). Brepbidium, of course, stands on the very outskirts of the family, in a highly specialized group, immeasurably further removed from Hemiargus or Lycaeides than, say, Lycaena. This is where my subfamilies come in handy since at least they keep related things in one bunch and eject intruders. Views may differ in regard to the hierarchic element in the classification I adopt, but no one has questioned so far the fact of the structural relationship and phylogenetic circumstances I mean it to reflect. The whole interest of Hemiargus is that it is allied to Lycaeides etc., while bearing a striking superficial resemblance to an African group with which it does not have the slightest structural affinity. Systematics, I think, should bring out such points and not keep them blurred in the haze of tradition. I am perfectly willing to demote the whole of my "subfamily" Plebejinae to a supergenus or genus Plebejus (Plebejus ceraunus, isola, thomasi, idas, melissa, aquilo, saepiolus, etc.) but only under the condition that it include exactly the same species, in the same groupings ("subgenera" or numbered sections, as you will) and in the same sequence of groups, without intrusions from groups assigned structurally to other "subfamilies" (and then, of course, lygda-mus, battoides, and piasus should be all in Scolitantides or its equivalent). However, I still think that the formality of generic nances for the groupings is a better method than going by numbers, etc. Names are also easier to handle in works on zoological distribution when it is important to bring out the way a group is represented in different regions of the world. Generally speaking, systematics is not directly concerned with the convenience of collectors in their dealings with small local faunas. It should attempt to express structural affinities and divergences, suggest certain phylogenetic lines, relate local developments to global ones-- and help lumpers to sort out properly the ingredients of their lumps. The Lepidopterists' News, Vol. 6, August 8, 1952, p. 41

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