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Hypermnestra Ménétriés, 1846

Hypermnestra helios (Nickerl, 1846)

Vazrick Nazari
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Containing group: Parnassiinae


The genus Hypermnestra is monotypic and its only species, H. helios, flies in the lowlands of central Asia.

The life history of Hypermnestra helios was studied by Le Cerf (1913) and Igarashi (1984), who gave detailed accounts of every life stage. Many publications on butterflies of Russia and central Asia (eg. Tuzov et al., 1997, Tshikolovets, 1998-2003) also treat H. helios. Some other particularly interesting studies include Müller (1976) who studied the microscopic properties of wing scales in Hypermnestra and Parnassius, and emphasized the importance of these characters in taxonomy. Also, Kuznetsov and Stekolnikov (1996) report similarities in genitalia musculature between Hypermnestra and Papilio machaon and discuss the phylogenetic significance of their findings.

Geographical Distribution

H. helios has a narrow range in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Kirghizstan, Tajikstan, and Uzbekistan (Tshikolovets, 1998, 2000, 2003). It is locally common in desert habitats (Nazari, 2003).

Geographical Variation

Several subspecific names are available for populations of H. helios throughout its range, but the validity of most of these has been questioned (Tshikolovets, 1998; Nazari, 2003). The nominal subspecies, H. helios helios (Nickerl, 1846) (Type locality: SW Kazakhstan) is distributed throughout central Asia (Kirghizstan, SW. Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Tadjikistan) (Tshikolovets, 1998). Populations from southern Tajikstan and Uzbekistan have received the name H. helios maxima Grum-Grshimailo, 1890 (Type locality: Uzbekistan) mainly due to their larger wingspan (Bryk, 1935). Populations from northern Iran have been called H. helios hyrcana Sheljuzhko, 1956 (=ssp. persica Neuburger, 1900 [preoccupied; see Sheljuzhko, 1956]) (Type locality: northern Iran), while populations in southern Iran are known as H. helios bushirica Bang-Haas, 1938 (Type locality: southern Iran) (Sheljuzhko, 1956; Bang-Haas, 1938). Populations from Afghanistan are named H. helios ariana Wyatt, 1961 (Type locality: Bamian, Afghanistan) (Wyatt, 1961) and those from Pakistan are called H. helios balucha Moore, 1895 (Type locality: Baluchistan, Pakistan) (Moore, 1895).

Larval Food Plant

Several species within the genus Zygophyllum (Zygophyllaceae) are known as food plants of H. helios; these include Z. atriplicoides, Z. gontsharovi, Z. portulacoides, Z. fabago, Z. turcomanicum, Z. oxianum, and Z. macrophyllum (Tshikolovets, 1998). Halimiphyllum, often treated as a synonym of Zygophyllum, has also been reported as a foodplant for H. helios (Kreuzberg, 1984).


According to Hemming (1967), Ménétriés proposed the name Hypermnestra in 1846 as a replacement name for Ismene Nickerl, 1846, which is an invalid junior homonym of Ismene Savigny, 1816 and Ismene Swainson, 1820. However, the introduction of this name by Ménétriés was overlooked for a long time, and Hypermnestra was attributed either to Heydenreich 1851 or to Westwood, [1852] (Hemming, 1967).

Other Names for Hypermnestra helios (Nickerl, 1846)


Bang-Haas, O., 1938. Neubeschreibungen und Berichtigungen der Palaearktischen Macrolepidopterenfauna XXXVII. Parnassiana 6: 15-24.

Hemming, A.F., 1967. The generic names of the butterflies and their type-species (Lepidoptera: Rhopalocera). Bull. Br. Mus. Nat. Hist. Ent. Suppl. 9: 509 pp.

Igarashi, S., 1984. The classification of the Papilionidae mainly based on the morphology of their immature stages. Tyô to Ga 34: 41-96.

Kreuzberg, A.VA., 1984. Larval foodplants of papilionids (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae) of the central Asia. Byulleten Moskovskogo Obshchestva Ispytatelei Prirody Otdel Biologicheskii 89: 27-34.

Kuznetsov, V.I., Stekolnikov, A.A., 1996. Phylogenetic and taxonomic notes on the genera Hypermnestra and Parnassius. Vestnik Sankt-Petersburskogo Universiteta, Seriya 3: Biologia 2: 3-8.

Le Cerf, M.F., 1913. Contribution à la faune lépidoptérologique de la Perse (Catalogue des Rhopalocères). Annales d’Histoire Naturelle, Tome II: Entomologie 1-85.

Moore, F., 1895. Description of a new species of Parnassius. Annales and Magazine of Natural History 6: 47-48.

Müller, A., 1976. Schuppenuntersuchungen in der Gattung Hypermnestra. Deutsche Entomologische Zeitschrift 23: 83-88.

Nazari, V., 2003. Butterflies of Iran. Dayereye-Sabz Publications, Tehran.

Sheljuzhko, L., 1956. Über dir übertragung von Aberrationsnamen auf Subspezies. Mitteilungen der Munchener Entomologischen Gesellschaft 46: 291-303.

Tshikolovets, V.V., 1998. The Butterflies of Turkmenistan. Kyiv, Brno, 237 pp.

Tshikolovets, V.V., 2000. The Butterflies of Uzbekistan. Kyiv, Brno, 400 pp.

Tshikolovets, V.V., 2003. The Butterflies of Tajikistan. Kyiv, Brno, 500 pp.

Tuzov, V.K., Bogdanov, P.V., Devyatkin, A.L., Kaabak, L.V., Korolev, V.A., Murzin, V.S., Samodurov, G.D., Tarasov, E.A., 1997. Guide to the Butterflies of Russia and Adjacent Territories (Lepidoptera, Rhopalocera). Volume 1: Hesperiidae, Papilionidae, Pieridae, Satyridae. Pensoft Series Faunistica No 7. Sofia-Mosow. 480 pp.

Wyatt, C., 1961. Additions to the Rhopalocera of Afghanistan with descriptions of new species and subspecies. Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society 15: 1-18.

Title Illustrations
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Scientific Name Hypermnestra helios
Location Turkmenistan, Kopet Dagh Mts.
Specimen Condition Live Specimen
Copyright © 1994
About This Page

Vazrick Nazari
Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes, Ottawa, Canada

Correspondence regarding this page should be directed to Vazrick Nazari at

Page: Tree of Life Hypermnestra Ménétriés, 1846. Hypermnestra helios (Nickerl, 1846). Authored by Vazrick Nazari. The TEXT of this page is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License - Version 3.0. Note that images and other media featured on this page are each governed by their own license, and they may or may not be available for reuse. Click on an image or a media link to access the media data window, which provides the relevant licensing information. For the general terms and conditions of ToL material reuse and redistribution, please see the Tree of Life Copyright Policies.

Citing this page:

Nazari, Vazrick. 2006. Hypermnestra Ménétriés, 1846. Hypermnestra helios (Nickerl, 1846). Version 07 July 2006. http://tolweb.org/Hypermnestra_helios/65392/2006.07.07 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/

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