Dr. James S. Miller†



Research Interests

It is with heavy hearts that we announce our former Curator of Lepidoptera at AMNH, Jim Miller, passed away suddenly March 24 at 69. Jim's research focused on the morphology and phylogeny of swallowtail butterflies and notodontid moths. A talented musician, Jim left AMNH to focus on his music career with Donna the Buffalo and then Western Centuries, while also continuing his work on Lepidoptera. Jim will be missed by his many friends and colleagues. Read more about Jim's life.

I study moths in the Noctuoidea, the largest superfamily in the Lepidoptera with an estimated 60,000 described species. My research addresses general issues in taxonomy, biodiversity, phylogeny, and historical ecology. For the past several years I have focused on one noctuoid group in particular, the Neotropical Dioptinae, containing 456 described species. Dioptines, a derived clade within the family Notodontidae or prominent moths (3,500 species worldwide), are fascinating for several reasons: First, whereas other notodontids are nocturnal and cryptic, dioptines are diurnal and brightly colored. Second, their caterpillars specialize in feeding on toxic plants, such as nightshades (Solanum) and passionflowers (Passiflora). Other notodontids feed on trees, such as oaks and poplar; these typically do not contain toxins. The evolutionary origin of the Dioptinae is thus associated with basic changes in life style, from a nocturnal to a diurnal habit, and from feeding on non-toxic trees to feeding on toxic host plants. The group thus mirrors the evolution of butterflies. In a recent paper, I reclassified the genera of Dioptinae, the first such effort in nearly 100 years, in order to provide a taxonomic context for future evolutionary and biological research on the group. I am currently working on an NSF-funded project, documenting Lepidoptera life histories at a cloud forest site in eastern Ecuador.


Miller, J.S., and P.P. Feeny. 1983. Effects of benzylisoquinoline alkaloids on the larvae of polyphagous Lepidoptera. Oecologia, 58: 332-339.

Miller, J.S. 1986. Phylogenetic systematics and chemical constraints on host-plant associations in the Papilioninae (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). PhD Thesis, Cornell University, 320 pp.

Miller, J.S. 1987. Host-plant relationships in the Papilionidae (Lepidoptera): Parallel cladogenesis or colonization? Cladistics, 3: 105-120.

Miller, J.S. 1987. Phylogenetic studies in the Papilioninae (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 186: 365-512.

Miller, J.S. 1987. A revision of the genus Phryganidia (Lepidoptera: Dioptidae), with description of a new species. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington, 89: 303-321.

Miller, J.S. 1988. External genitalic morphology and copulatory mechanism of Cyanotricha necyria (Felder) (Dioptidae). Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society, 42: 103-115.

Miller, J.S. 1989. Euchontha Walker and Pareuchontha new genus (Lepidoptera: Dioptidae): A revision, including description of three new species, and discussion of a male forewing modification. American Museum Novitates, 2938: 1-41.

Miller, J.S., and P.P. Feeny. 1989. Interspecific differences among swallowtail larvae (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae) in susceptibility to aristolochic acids and berberine. Ecological Entomology, 14: 287-296.

Godfrey, G.L., J.S. Miller, and D.J. Carter. 1989. Two mouthpart modifications in larval Notodontidae (Lepidoptera): their taxonomic distributions and putative functions. Journal of the New York Entomological Society, 97: 455-470.

Miller, J.S. 1991. Cladistics and classification of the Notodontidae (Lepidoptera: Noctuoidea) based on larval and adult morphology. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 204: 1-230.

Miller, J.S. 1992. Host-plant associations among prominent moths. BioScience, 42: 50-57.

Miller, J.S. 1992. Pupal morphology and the subfamily classification of the Notodontidae (Lepidoptera: Noctuoidea). Journal of the New York Entomological Society, 100: 228-256.

Miller, J.S., and L.D. Otero. 1994. Immature stages of Venezuelan Dioptinae (Notodontidae) in Josia and Thirmida. Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society, 48: 338-372.

Miller, J.S., and J.W. Wenzel. 1995. Ecological characters and phylogeny. Annual Review of Entomology, 40: 389-415.

Miller, J.S. 1996. Phylogeny of the Neotropical moth tribe Josiini (Notodontidae: Dioptinae): a hidden case of Müllerian mimicry. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 118: 1-45.

Miller, J.S., D.H. Janzen, and J.G. Franclemont. 1997. New species of Euhapigiodes, new genus, and Hapigiodes in Hapigiini, new tribe, from Costa Rica, with notes on their life history and immatures (Lepidoptera: Notodontidae). Tropical Lepidoptera, 8: 81-99.

Miller, J.S., A.V.Z. Brower, and R. DeSalle. 1997. Phylogeny of the neotropical moth tribe Josiini (Notodontidae: Dioptinae): Comparing and combining evidence from DNA sequences and morphology. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 60: 297-316.

Rawlins, J.R., and J.S. Miller. 2008. Dioptine moths of the Caribbean region: Description of two new genera with notes on biology and biogeography (Lepidoptera: Notodontidae: Dioptinae). Annals of the Carnegie Museum, 76: 203-226.

Miller, J.S., and L.A. Dyer. 2009. Special feature: Diversity of insect-plant interactions in the eastern Andes of Ecuador. Journal of Insect Science, 9: 26.

Miller, J.S. 2009. Generic revision of the Dioptinae (Lepidoptera: Noctuoidea: Notodontidae). Part 1: Dioptini. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 321(1): 1-674.

Miller, J.S. 2009. Generic revision of the Dioptinae (Lepidoptera: Noctuoidea: Notodontidae). Part 2: Josiini. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 321(2): 675-1022.