An overlooked and rare new gall-inducing micromoth from Brazil

A new species and genus (Cecidonius pampeanus) of primitive monotrysian micromoth from the Brazilian Pampa biome has been recently discovered to induce scarcely noticeable galls under the swollen stems of the Uruguayan pepper tree.

Gall-inducing moths lay their eggs in the tree bark, where the larvae form the characteristic roundish swellings as they grow larger. In their turn, these galls attract various parasitoids and inquiline wasps – wasps that have lost the ability to form galls for their own eggs – and so they take advantage of the galls of other species, while under development. The inquilines modify the galls into larger ones which subsequently last longer and attract even more attention. As a result, even though abundant as young, the new moth’s larvae rarely survive and their density in the field later in life is low.

Moreiraetal_PressRelease_Image2While free-living gall moths are generally rare, the studied genus pupates on the ground, resulting in its being overlooked for over a century. Furthermore, the galls fall to the ground where the last instar larvae undergo a period of suspended development for months. They stay motionless within their gall until pupation and emerge as adults in the next growing season.

After all this time, this species has finally been recognised in the open access journal ZooKeys by an international research team, led by Dr. Gilson Moreira, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. In their paper, the scientists describe the gall, immature stages and adults of the moth. They also provide information on its natural history in conjunction with one of the associated parasitoid and inquiline wasps.

“It took several years to obtain a small number of C. pampeanus pupae and adults to use for the description,” say the authors.

“The existence of these galls has been known for more than a century. However, biologists believed they are induced by the inquiline wasps,” they explain. “Consequently, it turned out that the wasps do not induce galls, but rather modify them early in development into large and colourful, visually appealing galls.”

The study also provides strong evidence that the species is under threat of extinction and the scientists suggest that protective measures need to be taken to conserve it.

In fact, they found strikingly low levels of gene flow amongst populations of C. pampeanus. In their paper, the team also emphasises that, in case of extinction of the primary gall inducer, a whole insect community associated with their galls will follow. This could happen even before science becomes familiar with all of these species.

Open savannahs of southern Brazil, where populations of the new moth’s host plant (the Uruguayan pepper tree) are found, have been suffering from anthropic impact for decades, mostly caused by agriculture and cattle ranching.

Curiously, the present study is the first in Brazil to suggest that a micromoth and its associated fauna should be subjected to conservation measures.

Extant populations of the new species are distant and isolated from each other, being restricted to a small geographic area in the northeast Southern Brazilian “Campos” (= Pampean savannah), a neglected biome from a nature preservation perspective. Most of the moths have retreated to higher elevations, such as hilltops and hill slopes interspersed with small bushes, where they get shelter from the anthropic influence.

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Original source:

Moreira GRP, Eltz RP, Pase RB, Silva GT, Bordignon SAL, Mey W, Gonçalves GL (2017) Cecidonius pampeanus, gen. et sp. n.: an overlooked and rare, new gall-inducing micromoth associated with Schinus in southern Brazil (Lepidoptera, Cecidosidae). ZooKeys 695: 37-74. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.695.13320

Gehry’s Biodiversity Museum – favorite attraction for the butterflies and moths in Panama

Ahead of Gehry’s Biodiversity Museum‘s opening in October 2014, PhD candidate Patricia Esther Corro Chang, Universidad de Panama, studied the butterflies and moths which had been attracted by the bright colours of the walls and which were visiting the grounds of the tourist site.

The resulting checklist, published in the open access journal Biodiversity Data Journal, aims to both evaluate the biodiversity and encourage the preservation and development of the Amador Causeway (Calzada de Amador) and the four Causeway Islands. The name of the islands derives from their being linked to each other and the mainland via a causeway made of rocks excavated during the construction of the Panama Canal.

The researcher reports a total of six butterfly and eight moth families, identified from the 326 specimens collected over the course of 10 months from the botanical garden of the museum and adjacent areas. They represent a total of 52 genera and 60 species.

IMG_0096Interestingly, the eye-catching bright colours of the walls of the museum seem to play an important role for the insect fauna of the area. Not only are numerous butterflies and moths being attracted to the site, but they also express curious behaviour. On various occasions, for example, a species of skipper butterfly was seen to show a clear preference for yellowish surfaces. In their turn, a number of butterfly predators, such as jumping spiders, are also frequenting the walls.

The article in the journal provides knowledge of the butterfly and moth fauna at the mainly vegetated study area, located on a narrow strip of water distant from the city of Panama.

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Original source:

Corro-Chang P (2017) Behavioural notes and attraction on Lepidoptera around the Gehry’s Biodiversity Museum (Causeway, Calzada de Amador, Panamá, República de Panamá). Biodiversity Data Journal 5: e11410. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.5.e11410

Moth gift: Winner of an eBay auction thanks his mother by naming a new species after her

The loving son presented the name to his mother on St. Valentine’s Day

Winner of an eBay auction Steve Mix received the opportunity to pick the name for a new species of satiny-white winged moth collected from the white gypsum dunes of the White Sands National Monument, New Mexico. A fan of butterflies and moths himself, he chose to honor his supportive and encouraging mother Delinda Mix, so the moth is now formally listed under the species name delindae. It is described in the open access journal ZooKeys.

Having spent 10 years studying the moth fauna at the White Sands National Monument, Eric H. Metzler, curator at the Michigan State University, but also research collaborator at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, and research associate at the University of New Mexico and the University of Florida, discovered the moth during the first year of the study, in 2007. Back then, he spotted a curious small white moth with a satiny appearance, which immediately drew his attention.

LocalityAlready assigned to the genus Givira to the family commonly known as carpenter millers, the moth was yet to be identified as a species. While most of its North American ‘relatives’ are either dark-colored, or have substantial dark smudges on the forewings, there are only four of them, including the new species, which are substantially white with few or no dark markings.

Further hindrance occurred when the researcher tried to study the specimens, as pinned moths turned out greased due to their abdomens being full of fatty tissue. However, the specialist managed to degrease them by carefully brushing their scales, and, having compared them to related species, confirmed them as representatives of a species new to science.

Then, Eric joined the fundraising event, organized by the Western National Parks Association (WNPA), a non-profit education partner of the US National Park Service. The highest bidder in the eBay auction would receive the chance to pick the scientific name for the satiny-looking moth, and thus, become part of history. Having won the opportunity, Steve Mix, who himself had once been interested in studying butterflies and moths, and has been maintaining his fondness of them ever since, decided to name the species after his mother Delinda Mix, in gratitude for “the support and encouragement she gave to her son”.

“Steve Mix submitted the winning bid, and he chose to have the moth named after his mother because of the lasting nature of this naming opportunity”, shares Eric. “I received no remuneration in this fundraising venture, and by volunteering my personal money, time, expertise, and experience I was able to help WNPA gain world-wide positive publicity while raising some much needed cash. The rewards to me were being able to help WNPA and Steve Mix honor his mother, which is just so very sentimental”.

“WNPA is so pleased that we were able to work with Eric and we are grateful to Steve. This project is a shining example of working together towards the common good of our parks with the added value of providing a priceless experience for everyone involved”, says Amy Reichgott, Development Manager at the Western National Parks Association.

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Original source:

Metzler EH (2017) The Lepidoptera of White Sands National Monument, Otero County, New Mexico, USA 9. A new species of Givira Walker (Cossidae, Hypoptinae) dedicated to Delinda Mix, including a list of species of Cossidae recorded from the Monument. ZooKeys 655: 141-156. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.655.11339

A colorful yet little known snout moth genus from China with 5 new species

A group of beautiful snout moths from China was revised by three scientists from the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

In their study, recently published in the open access journal Zookeys, entomologists Dr. Mingqiang Wang, Dr. Fuqiang Chen and Prof. Chunsheng Wu describe five new species and two newly recorded for the country.

Despite being morphologically interesting, the snout moth genus Lista remains little known. Usually, its members have bright-coloured wings, often pink, orange, or yellow, which makes them strikingly different from the rest in their subfamily (Epipaschiinae). In fact, it is because of the beautiful coloration that these moths are sometimes favourably compared to butterflies. However, these moths are indifferentiable from one another on the outside.

image-1As a result of the present study, there are now ten species of Lista snout moths known from China, with their world fauna amounting to thirteen. Mostly distributed in the south the East-Asian country, the genus likely originates from there.

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Original source:

Wang M, Chen F, Wu C (2017) A review of Lista Walker, 1859 in China, with descriptions of five new species (Lepidoptera, Pyralidae, Epipaschiinae). ZooKeys 642: 97-113. 10.3897/zookeys.642.7157

35 years of work: More than 1000 leaf-mining pygmy moths classified & catalogued

The leaf-mining pygmy moths (family Nepticulidae) and the white eyecap moths (family Opostegidae) are among the smallest moths in the world with a wingspan of just a few millimetres. Their caterpillars make characteristic patterns in leaves: leaf mines. For the first time, the evolutionary relationships of the more than 1000 species have been analysed on the basis of DNA, resulting in a new classification.

Today, a team of scientists, led by Dr Erik J. van Nieukerken and Dr. Camiel Doorenweerd, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, The Netherlands, published three inter-linked scientific publications in the journal Systematic Entomology and the open access journal ZooKeys, together with two online databases, providing a catalogue with the names of all species involved.image-2

The evolutionary study, forming part of the PhD thesis of Doorenweerd, used DNA methods to show that the group is ancient and was already diverse in the early Cretaceous, ca. 100 million years ago, partly based on the occurrence of leaf mines in fossil leaves. The moths are all specialised on some species of flowering plants, also called angiosperms, and could therefore diversify when the angiosperms diversified and largely replaced ecologically other groups of plants in the Cretaceous. The study lead to the discovery of three new genera occurring in South and Central America, which are described in one of the two ZooKeys papers, stressing the peculiar character and vastly undescribed diversity of the Neotropic fauna.

Changing a classification requires a change in many species names, which prompted the authors to simultaneously publish a full catalogue of all 1072 valid species names that are known worldwide and the many synonymic names from the literature from the past 150 years.

Creating such a large and comprehensive overview became possible from the moths and leaf-mine collections of the world’s natural history museums, and culminates the past 35 years of research that van Nieukerken has spent on this group. However, a small, but not trivial, note in one of the publications indicates that we can expect at least another 1000 species of pygmy leafminer moths that are yet undiscovered.image-3

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Original sources:

Doorenweerd C, Nieukerken EJ van, Hoare RJB (2016) Phylogeny, classification and divergence times of pygmy leafmining moths (Lepidoptera: Nepticulidae): the earliest lepidopteran radiation on Angiosperms? Systematic Entomology, Early View. doi: 10.1111/syen.1221.

Nieukerken EJ van, Doorenweerd C, Nishida K, Snyers C (2016) New taxa, including three new genera show uniqueness of Neotropical Nepticulidae (Lepidoptera). ZooKeys 628: 1-63. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.628.9805.

Nieukerken EJ van, Doorenweerd C, Hoare RJB, Davis DR (2016) Revised classification and catalogue of global Nepticulidae and Opostegidae (Lepidoptera: Nepticuloidea). ZooKeys 628: 65-246. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.628.9799.

Nieukerken EJ van (ed) (2016) Nepticulidae and Opostegidae of the world, version 2.0. Scratchpads, biodiversity online.

Nieukerken EJ van (ed) (2016). Nepticuloidea: Nepticulidae and Opostegidae of the World (Oct 2016 version). In: Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life, 31st October 2016 (Roskov Y., Abucay L., Orrell T., Nicolson D., Flann C., Bailly N., Kirk P., Bourgoin T., DeWalt R.E., Decock W., De Wever A., eds). Digital resource at http://www.catalogueoflife.org/col. Species 2000: Naturalis, Leiden, the Netherlands. ISSN 2405-8858. http://www.catalogueoflife.org/col/details/database/id/172