Taxonomy, Systematics, and Biology of Indian Butterflies in the 21st Century
India with its four biodiversity hotspots is one of the most important areas for exploration and conservation of tropical and montane biodiversity. Yet, India suffers from a taxonomic impediment originating from decades of neglect of scientific progress not only in the fields of systematics and museum sciences, but also evolutionary biology, phylogenetics, molecular ecology, and bioinformatics. As a result, systematic research in India has lagged behind in the past few decades, with the consequence that our understanding of taxonomy and biology of Indian flora and fauna is considerably incomplete and outdated. In this chapter, these problems are highlighted with the historical account of taxonomic and biological work on Indian butterflies, and the current state of butterfly taxonomy in India. As a way forward, some recent progress is summarized in evolutionary biology, phylogenetics, and systematics, that is contributing to modern understanding of speciation and diversification. A course of action is proposed with the central mantra of “Observe-Collect-Inspect-Sequence,” which will allow rapid advances in the taxonomic and biological understanding of Indian butterflies. The need to modernize old museums, develop new infrastructures and institutional networks, and train a new generation of field and museum scientists who will explore and preserve invaluable biodiversity of the Indian Region, is highlighted.