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Distribution of Afrotropical Kite Swallowtails

What's in a name?

This section deals with the application of the rules of nomenclature. As such it is likely to be of interest only to academic taxonomists and might strike the general reader as rather dry. You may wish to go straight back to the account of the higher classification of kite swallowtails. On the other hand, if you are an academic taxonomist, or are interested in how they deal with such matters, read on …

Is the correct name for the kite swallowtails Graphiini, Lampropterini or Leptocircini?

There has been some confusion as to what formal name to apply to the 'kite' swallowtails including Graphium and its relatives, with Graphiini, Lampropterini and Leptocircini all being used by recent authors.

In our opinion is the correct name for the tribe that includes Graphium and its relatives is Leptocircini Kirby, 1896.

The genus-group name Lamproptera was introduced by G.R. Gray (1832) for the 'dragontail', Papilio curius Fabricius, 1787, (as 'Erycina (Lamproptera) curius G.R. Gray') on the legend to plate 102 of the Supplement on the Lepidoptera, but with no mention in the text and no description. According to the Code of Zoological Nomenclature (I.C.Z.N., 1999), Article 12.2.7, this constitutes an 'indication' and thus satisfies the requirements of Article 12 on availability.
According to the Code (Article 56.2), it is not a junior homonym of Lampropteryx Stephens, 1831 [Lepidoptera: Geometridae].

Swainson (1833) gave a description of a new subgenus, Urania (Leptocircus) for the same species. He did not cite Gray's name and was not, evidently, proposing a replacement name for a homonym. He did, however, state, ‘We are told the species has been “made into a genus” by some continental methodist, but who, according to the disreputable and slovenly mode fast creeping among us [Swainson's emphasis], gives no definition. We have elsewhere expressed our reasons for rejecting all such names ., and we are thus pledged to do so upon every occasion.’

Notwithstanding the availability and validity of Lamproptera Gray, many subsequent authors followed Swainson. Among these, Kirby (1896) included Lamproptera Gray as a synonym of Leptocircus Swainson.

Kirby (1896) was also the first to apply a family-group name to the genus, describing the sub-family Leptocircinae solely for the genus Leptocircus.
(1929) recognized Lamproptera Gray as a valid genus, with Leptocircus Swainson as a junior synonym. At the same time he replaced the family-group name Leptocircinae Kirby with Lampropterinae (Bryk, 1929: 4, footnote; as synonyms of Papilionidae).
However, the Code (Article 40.1) states that family-group names should not normally be replaced on the grounds of being based on a junior synonym, unless (Article 40.2) the name has been replaced before 1961 and this replacement ‘ . is in prevailing usage’. Were such a replacement name to be accepted, the code recommends (Recommendation 40A) that it should retain the author and date of its replacement with the date of priority enclosed in brackets. It would thus be cited as Lampropterinae Bryk, 1929 [1896].

As far as we are aware, Lampropterinae (as its tribal equivalent, Lampropterini) has only been used in major revisions or catalogues by Bridges (1988), and Ackery, Smith and Vane-Wright (1995), whereas Leptocircinae or its equivalents has been widely used, including by Munroe (1961), Carcasson (1981), Hancock (1983), Ackery (1984, 1989), Igarashi (1984), Collins and Morris (1985), Scott (1986), DeVries (1987) and Eliot (1992)(see references).
Thus Lampropterinae cannot be said to be in prevailing usage.

The name Graphiini was introduced by Talbot (1939) for the kite swallowtails of the world, including Graphium (sensu lato) and Lamproptera. As such, it appears to be the first time that these two genera have been brought together below the family level. However, it is clearly junior to both Lampropterinae Bryk, 1929 [1896], and Leptocircinae Kirby, 1896.
Despite this, the name Graphiini has been used by Ford (1944a, b), Miller (1987), Tyler, Brown and Wilson (1994), Pennington (1994) and Braby (2000). Should Lamproptera (as well as Teinopalpus) be excluded from the clade, unlikely given the work of Hancock (1983) and Miller (1987), Graphiini would be available as a tribal name.

To summarize:

Lamproptera Gray, 1832, is an available and valid name for the genus including Papilio curius Fabricius 1787.

Leptocircus Swainson, 1833, is an available name for the same genus, but invalid as it is a junior objective synonym. It was not a replacement name.

Leptocircinae Kirby, 1896, and its equivalents is available as a family-group name for Lamproptera together with any other genera considered to be part of the same monophyletic clade.

Lampropterinae Bryk, 1929 [1896], is an unnecessary replacement name for Leptocircinae, and has not been rendered valid by prevailing usage.

Graphiini Talbot, 1939, is a junior synonym of Leptocircinae.

Our conclusion is thus that the correct name for the tribe including Graphium and its relatives is Leptocircini Kirby 1896.