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a family of butterflies with a wingspread ranging from 2.5 to 18 cm. The coloration of the wings, whose margins are often angular or crenated, is bright and variegated; the upper and lower parts of the wings may vary in color. The forelegs are reduced and clawless. The larvae are covered with dendritic spines or cutaneous protuberances. The cocoons often have a metallic sheen and are suspended upside down.
There are approximately 2,000 species of nymphalids, distributed throughout the world. They are particularly numerous and varied in the tropics. The following species are typical of the moderate latitudes of the northern hemisphere: Apatura, Neptis, Nigella, Limenitis, Vanessa, Melitaea, and Argynnis. The USSR has approximately 140 species, including the painted lady (Vanessa cardui), the tortoise shell (Aglais urticae), and the mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa). Nymphalid larvae feed on herbaceous and, less frequently, woody plants. They do not cause serious damage.