Apodemia mormo autumnalis

Mormon Metalmark

The large mormo in the Mojave Preserve in eastern California may be considered subspecies autumnalis, named by George Austin in the 1998 Systematics of Western North America Butterflies on pp.561-2. The type locality is in Clark County, Nevada in the Spring Mountains, but the range of this subspecies seems to be a bit controversial. Austin originally had the distribution as northern Arizona, northern New Mexico, southeastern California, southwestern Utah, and southern Nevada. But the map in the American Butterflies article of 2011 by Pratt, Emmel, and Bernard limits autumnalis to the vicinity of the type locality and the Mojave Preserve. For now, I'll follow that arrangement.

The basis for naming this subspecies is suspect to me. First, Austin contrasts his new subspecies with deserti, which was then considered a subspecies of mormo. However, now that it is clear that deserti is a mejicanus subspecies, the contrasts lose their relevance. Second, while noting that the dorsal pattern and color is not different from nearby mormo mormo, he points to the bigger size and lighter ventral coloration of autumnalis. Given the variations in this complex that exist over the range of this entire complex, one wonders whether the differences between nominate mormo and subspecies autumnalis are great enough to merit the name. For us, what this comes down to is just how different our eastern Mojave desert populations really are to mormo mormo elsewhere. We certainly don't need the name to distinguish them from deserti.

Apodemia mormo autumnalis - Autumn Mormon Metalmark
The fall-flying Apodemia mormo autumnalis ranges into the eastern part of California around the Mojave Preserve. This was off Cedar Canyon Road on September 18, 2022.
Apodemia mormo autumnalis - Autumn Mormon Metalmark
Another one on the same day; they were really enjoying the rabbitbrush that afternoon.
Apodemia mormo autumnalis - Autumn Mormon Metalmark
Same date and place as above.

©Dennis Walker