Two recent scientific studies have resulted in changes of taxonomic rankings of several Indian Papilio (Joshi & Kunte 2022, and Condamine et al. 2023). The detailed studies involved dense taxon sampling (including multiple individuals of each taxon), large molecular datasets including mitochondrial and nuclear markers, detailed phylogenetic analyses including two methods of species delimitation, biogeographic analysis (dispersal-vicariance), and decades of museum work by some of the top global experts on Papilio taxonomy, systematics and biology.
The formal taxonomic changes are as follows:
- Papilio (Menelaides) noblei belongs to a distantly related subgenus, as Papilio (Araminta) noblei.
- Papilio (Menelaides) liomedon belongs to a distantly related subgenus, as Papilio (Araminta) liomedon.
- Papilio bianor polyctor is now reinstated as a distinct species, as Papilio polyctor.
- Papilio agenor, formerly treated as a subspecies (P. memnon agenor), is now raised to species level. The NE Indian and other continental populations are now recognized as Papilio agenor agenor, and Nicobarese populations as Papilio agenor nicobarensis.
- Papilio polymnestor is found to be a subspecies of Papilio agenor rather than a distinct species. It is now treated as Papilio agenor polymnestor (peninsular India) and Papilio agenor parinda (Sri Lanka).
- Papilio mayo is found to be a subspecies of Papilio memnon rather than a distinct species. It is now treated as Papilio memnon mayo.
- Papilio chaon, formerly treated as a subspecies (Papilio nephelus chaon), is now raised to species level. The NE Indian and other continental populations are now recognized as Papilio chaon chaon.
- Papilio daksha, formerly treated as a subspecies (Papilio helenus daksha), is now raised to species level. It is now treated as Papilio daksha daksha (Western Ghats and nearby populations) and Papilio daksha mooreanus (Sri Lanka). According to this arrangement, Papilio helenus occurs in the E. Himalaya and NE India, not in the Western Ghats any more.
- Papilio janaka, formerly treated as a subspecies (Papilio bootes janaka), is now raised to species level.
These changes will percolate through the relevant species pages in due course. In the meantime, this note may serve as a helpful guide.
Future ecological, genetic and genomic studies will shed further light on the taxonomy and systematics of this iconic butterfly genus.
Joshi, J., and K. Kunte. 2022. Polytypy and systematics: diversification of Papilio swallowtail butterflies in the biogeographically complex Indo-Australian Region. bioRxiv, 2022.03.23.485569.
Condamine, F. L., R. Allio, E. L. Reboud, J. R. Dupuis, E. F. A. Toussaint, N. Mazet, S.-J. Hue, D. S. Lewis, K. Kunte, A. M. Cotton, F. A. H. Sperling. 2023. A comprehensive phylogeny and revised taxonomy illuminate the origin and diversification of the global radiation of Papilio (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 107758.