Typified names:

Lepidoptera Linnaeus 1758

NOMEN: Lepidoptera Linnaeus 1758: 458 [C. Linnaeus. Systema Naturae, ed. 10, 1758, T.1: 1-824]

ORIGINAL LISTED MEMBERSHIP (Linnaeus 1758): Papilio + Sphinx + Phalaena

= Hymenolepidoptera Schaeffer 1766

= Farinacea = Farinosa Schluga 1766

= Glossata Fabricius 1775 (non Glossata Packard 1895)

= Roeselii Scopoli 1777

= Lepidioptera Clairville 1798

= Glossostoma Leach 1815

= Lepidopteria Rafinesque 1815

= Glossota Amyot 1845
= Micrognatha Spinola 1850

= Sorbentia Haeckel 1889

= Lepidopterida Pearce 1936

TYPIFIED NAME IN BASIC FORMAT: Papilio/fg (sine Phrygaea; incl. Micropterix)
TYPIFIED NAMES IN USE: Papilionoides, Papilionida

MODERN STATUS: the valid, the oldest name of a generally accepted, holophyletic taxon.
Systematic position of Lepidoptera:


Classification of Lepidoptera:

  plesiomorphon Protolepidoptera

Kluge 2010 BioNomina Dual-Nom :

In its original circumscription, the generally accepted name Lepidoptera Linnaeus 1758 fits the taxon to which it had always been applied. The name was actually introduced by Aristotle, but under the starting point rule the formal authorship is Linnaeus 1758. The original Linnaean Lepidoptera included, among other species, the whiteflies under the species name Phalaena (Tinea) proletella. The whiteflies (Scytinelytra, or Aleyrodes/fg1) are currently placed in Arthroidignatha. Linnaeus’s placing them with Lepidoptera was clearly a mistake rather than a reflection of his views on classification: he simply mistook the whitefly rostrum for “lingua inflexa”, and the waxy wing cover, for scales. Hence, proletella [Phalaena] should not be considered a part of the original net included membership of Lepidoptera, so Lepidoptera should be a valid circumscriptional name for this taxon excluding proletella [Phalaena].

In my earlier papers (Kluge 2004b, 2005a) I wrongly referred to the taxon Lepidoptera + Trichoptera as “Sorbentia Haeckel 1896” because I was believed that Haeckel’s (1896) usage was the original one. It turns out, however, that the name goes back to Haeckel’s 1889 paper where Sorbentia consisted of nothing but Lepidoptera, while the caddisflies (under the generic name Phryganea within Neuroptera) were treated separately among Mordentia. Thus, the name Sorbentia Haeckel 1889 is a junior circumscriptional synonym of Lepidoptera (Mielke & Casagrande 2006). The oldest circumscriptional name for Lepidoptera + Trichoptera is not Sorbentia, but Amphiesmenoptera Kiriakoff 1948.

Some modern workers treat the name Glossata Fabricius 1775 not as a synonym of Lepidoptera but as a valid name of a taxon that does not include the laciniate moths (Micropterigidae). However, Fabricius (1775) applied Glossata to all the butterflies and moths, including the laciniate moths, e.g., calthella Linnaeus 1758 [Phalaena (Tinea)]. The entire original diagnosis of Glossata is just ‘Os palpis linguaque spirali’, although diagnoses of some genera treated by Fabricius in the Glossata suggest that they lack spiral lingua, which means that placing the laciniate moths (those with no spiral lingua) within Glossata was deliberate (unlike the Linnaeus’s placing the whiteflies with Lepidoptera).

Packard (1895) was the first to divide the Lepidoptera into those retaining the chewing laciniae and those who have lost them, and proposed the name Lepidoptera haustellata Packard 1895 for the latter, stipulating, however, that “If the term haustellata should be thought inapplicable from use by former authors the term Lepidoptera glossata could be used instead” (Packard 1895: p. 233, footnote 4). Indeed, the name Haustellata is preoccupied: during early 19th century the name Haustellata Clairville 1798 was used to refer to a polyphyletic taxon accommodating an assortment of insects with sucking mouthparts. Packard (1895) clearly regarded both Haustellata and Glossata as new names proposed by him for a newly established taxon, but did not use the Fabricius’s name Glossata. However, some recent authors (e.g., Speidel 1977) misapply the name Glossata Fabricius 1775 to the Packard’s taxon. As this taxon had no non-homonymous name, I proposed to name it Glossolepidoptera Kluge 2005. 

A simplified classification of higher lepidopteran taxa is given above.


Fabricius J.C. 1775. Systema Entomologiae, sistens insectorum classes, ordines, genera, species, adiectus synonymus, locis, descriptionibus, observations. Flensburg et Lipsiae, in Offic. libr. Kortii, 1–832.

Haeckel E. 1889. Natürliche Schöpfungs-Geschichte. Gemeinverständliche wissenschaftliche Vorträge über die Entwickelung-Lehre im Allgemainen und diejenige von Darwin, Goethe und Lamarck im Besonderen. Berlin, Druck und Verlag von Georg Reimer: 1-832.

Haeckel E. 1896. Systematische Phylogenie. Zweiter Theil: Systematische Phylogenie der wirbellosen Thiere (Invertebrata). Berlin, Verlag von Georg Reimer, 1–720.

Kiriakoff S.G. 1948. A classification of the Lepidoptera and related groups with some remarks on taxonomy. // Biologisch Jaarboek. Antwerpen, 15, 118–143.

Kluge N.J. 2004b. Larval leg structure of Nannochorista and characteristics of Mecoptera. // Russian Entomological Journal, (2003), 12 (4), 349–354.

Kluge N.J. 2005a. Larval/pupal leg transformation and a new diagnosis for the taxon Metabola Burmeister, 1832 = Oligoneoptera Martynov, 1923. // Russian Entomological Journal, (2004) 13(4), 189–229.

Linnaeus C. 1758. Systema Naturae per regna tria Naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum Characteribus, Differentiis, Synonymis, Locis. T.I. [A photographic facsimile of the first volume of the tenth edition. London, British Museum of Natural History, 1956, 1–824].

Mielke O.H.H. & Casagrande M.M. 2006. Catálogo bibliográfico dos taxa superiores de ordem Lepidoptera. // Revista Brasiliera de Zoologia, 23 (1), 1-41.

Packard A.S. 1895. On the phylogeny of the Lepidoptera. // Zoologischer Anzeiger, 18 (465), 228–236.

Speidel W. 1977. Ein Versich zur Unterteilung der Lepidopteren in Unterordungen. Atalanta, 8 (2), 119–121.