How pygmy moths started to diversify 100 million years ago

Related Articles

Related Articles

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.

 

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.

NATURALIS BIODIVERSITY CENTER

 

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic

LATEST NEWS

Photos of Stolen Mosaic Reveals Oldest Representation of Roman Hydraulic Wheel

Researchers from the University of Warsaw have determined that a mosaic stolen from Apamea in present-day Syria is the oldest representation of a Roman hydraulic water wheel.

Study Reveals True Origin of Oldest Evidence of Animals

Two teams of scientists have resolved a longstanding controversy surrounding the origins of complex life on Earth.

The Microbiome of Da Vinci’s Drawings

The work of Leonardo Da Vinci is an invaluable heritage of the 15th century. From engineering to anatomy, the master paved the way for many scientific disciplines.

The Private Estates of the Royal Family

The private estates of the Royal Family are the privately owned assets, not to be confused with the Crown Estates which belong to the British monarch as a corporation sole or "the sovereign's public estate".

Field Geology at Mars’ Equator Points to Ancient Megaflood

Floods of unimaginable magnitude once washed through Gale Crater on Mars' equator around 4 billion years ago - a finding that hints at the possibility that life may have existed there, according to data collected by NASA's Curiosity rover and analyzed in joint project by scientists from Jackson State University, Cornell University, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Hawaii.

Middle Stone Age Populations Repeatedly Occupied West African Coast

Although coastlines have widely been proposed as potential corridors of past migration, the occupation of Africa's tropical coasts during the Stone Age is poorly known, particularly in contrast to the temperate coasts of northern and southern Africa.

Naqa – The Meroitic City

Naqa, also called Naga'a, and presently referred to as the El-Moswarat Andel-Naqa'a Archaeological Area was one of the ancient cities of the Nubian Kingdom of Kush, located on the east-bank of the River Nile in Western Butan (historically called the Island of Meroë) in Sudan.

Prehistoric Shark Hid its Largest Teeth

Some, if not all, early sharks that lived 300 to 400 million years ago not only dropped their lower jaws downward but rotated them outwards when opening their mouths.

Popular stories

Legio IX Hispana – The Lost Roman Legion

One of the most debated mysteries from the Roman period involves the disappearance of the Legio IX Hispana, a legion of the Imperial Roman Army that supposedly vanished sometime after AD 120.

The Secret Hellfire Club and the Hellfire Caves

The Hellfire Club was an exclusive membership-based organisation for high-society rakes, that was first founded in London in 1718, by Philip, Duke of Wharton, and several of society's elites.

Port Royal – The Sodom of the New World

Port Royal, originally named Cagway was an English harbour town and base of operations for buccaneers and privateers (pirates) until the great earthquake of 1692.

Matthew Hopkins – The Real Witch-Hunter

Matthew Hopkins was an infamous witch-hunter during the 17th century, who published “The Discovery of Witches” in 1647, and whose witch-hunting methods were applied during the notorious Salem Witch Trials in colonial Massachusetts.