Hypolimnas misippus is a Pantropical butterfly species that has been studied separately in the African, Asian and Australian continents. Little is known about this species in South America; although its presence is recognized there. The study of this species as a Cosmopolitan animal has never been fully performed, and has not been clearly elucidated if it is a single taxon involved in global populations, a case of a generalist species distributed worldwide, or a species with representative races in several parts of the world. This study aimed to differentiate the possible taxa involved under this name, different morphotypes and possible taxonomic units so far identified as Hypolimnas misippus for all continents. I put forward the hypothesis that this animal may well represent more than one taxon; or conversely, be a unique single species whose distributional pattern needs a taxonomic resolution that serves as the basis for a phylogenetic and phylogeographic study.
A taxonomic revision of specimens from several continents (4.237 (2348:1889)) was done in museum collections. Analyses performed included wing color pattern segregation and genitalia comparative morphology. Furthermore, relations between hostplants and their distributions were revised. Distribution maps of the butterfly species vs its hostplants were developed using GIS.
No individual variation in the wing pattern color between specimens from different continents was found with no variation with the original description (From the 4.237 specimens revised - located in a total of 17 museums). No significant individual variation in genitalic morphology was found. The use of 22 species of host plants was recorded.
It was determined that the morphology of H. misippus is particularly stable, even among populations of different continents, and that these populations constitute a single species, well defined, without subspecies, with basically a Pantropical distribution, but with elements that could confer possible Gondwanian relationships. This case should also be a possible example of recent evolutionary stasis. H. misippus larvae are polyphagous (22 hostplants known within a notable range of genetically distant taxonomic families), but is mainly associated with Portulaca oleracea (Portulacaceae). Its current pantropical distribution is the combined result of later (but not recent) natural events of vicariousness and dispersal, as well as differential adaptations to the tropical environments of various continents, modulated by the extraordinary adaptive capacities conferred by its polyphagy.