Categories
Biodiversity Informatics Lepidoptera Species Lists

Updating Global Lepidoptera Index for Psychidae

This is a small update to the recent post on updating Global Lepidoptera Index (GLI) for Elachistinae species. I have subsequently reworked GLI for Psychidae, based primarily on:

  • Sobczyk, T. (2013) World Catalogue of Insects Volume 10, Psychidae (Lepidoptera). 1–467 pp.
  • Arnscheid, W.R. & Weidlich, M. (2017) Microlepidoptera of Europe Volume 8, Psychidae. 1–356 pp.
  • Papers known to Google Scholar relating to Psychidae and published since 2012 (many from Zootaxa, smaller numbers from Entomofauna, SHILAP, DEZ, etc.).

Names for Australian Psychidae in GLI were already largely up to date owing to earlier efforts to align with Nielsen, E.S., Edwards, E.D. & Rangsi, T.V. (1996) Checklist of the Lepidoptera of Australia (Monographs on Australian Lepidoptera Volume 4).

However, the coverage for the rest of the family reflected the original digitisation of the NHM card index. The card index itself seems to have been maintained less thoroughly than for many other families. Names for Psychidae in LepIndex reflect very dated concepts for genera and species synonymy.

The recent sources for this family vary to some degree in assignment of genera to subfamilies and tribes and in use of subgenera. GLI now follows Sobczyk 2013 in these respects, but overrides for European species from Arnscheid & Weidlich 2017.

Following all updates, the number of species known within the family has risen from 1,118 to 1,454. However, the total number of species names (including both accepted names and all synonyms) has more than doubled relative to LepIndex. Much of this is because of changes in generic placement and synonmy, although significant numbers of species and names even from as early as the 1970s were missing from the card index.

Overlap in species names within the family Psychidae between LepIndex and GLI. Names are considered to be a full match if spelling and authorship are identical (including parentheses) and if the two datasets give the same accepted name for the associated species.

Of the 2,938 species names now included in GLI, only 418 exactly match a name in LepIndex and also map to the same accepted species name in both datasets. The vast majority of accepted psychid names in LepIndex are no longer considered correct.

Even with many historical names now synonymised, updating Psychidae in GLI resulted in a 30% growth in the number of accepted species recorded for the family. This is in line with the estimates in the earlier Elachistinae post that between 27% and 41% of all accepted Lepidoptera species are missing from Lepindex and that around 40,000 more species still need to be added to the dataset.

Categories
Biodiversity Informatics Lepidoptera Species Lists

Updating Global Lepidoptera Index for Elachistinae

Background

Until 2022, Catalogue of Life (COL) and GBIF still relied on the NHM LepIndex dataset for names for almost all Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths). This is now superseded by a revised version of LepIndex maintained in TaxonWorks as the Global Lepidoptera Index (GLI). See this earlier post for more detail.

Methods

The concept used in LepIndex for the gelechioid family Elachistidae corresponded to what we now treat as a subfamily Elachistinae. At the time of its last import into COL, LepIndex had 491 scientific names associated with this (sub-)family, organised as follows:

  • Family – 1 accepted
  • Genus – 35 accepted
  • Species – 410 accepted, 1 provisionally accepted, 40 synonyms, 2 ambiguous synonyms
  • Subspecies – 2 accepted

In 2019, Lauri Kaila published An annotated catalogue of Elachistinae of the World (Lepidoptera: Gelechioidea: Elachistidae) in Zootaxa. I had already brought GLI up to date for the Australian Elachistinae treated in his 2011 Monographs of Australian Lepidoptera volume, so I decided to take the time also to update the remainder of this subfamily and to include all post-2019 species I could find. This is now completed, and GLI now includes 1284 names for the group. This total comprises names in Kaila 2019, those from newer papers, fossil names from LepIndex and a few nomina dubia that were not in the catalogue but seem plausibly to refer to elachistine moths. I was not rigorous about adding every historical combination for epithets that have passed through multiple genera, but original combinations and current combinations should all be present, as should original combinations for all synonyms. I did not update the micro-references that were already in place for older names, but the newer names link to structured citations.

Totals are now as follows:

  • Subfamily – 1 accepted
  • Genus – 14 accepted, 50 synonyms
  • Species – 819 accepted, 392 synonyms
  • Infraspecific taxa – 1 accepted, 7 synonyms

About five genera and around a dozen other species that were under Elachistidae in LepIndex previously have been moved to other families in the Lepidoptera. Many of these cases are discussed by Kaila, although a few represent highly outdated placements in the NHM catalogue that were apparently not even considered worth discussing. Many small genera have been synonymised into Elachista, Perittia or Stephensia. Four fossil genera are not treated by Kaila but are retained from LepIndex.

I fixed multiple misspellings that occurred in LepIndex either because information on the index cards was incorrect or during transcription into digital format. Despite the scale of the publication, I found no obvious misspellings in Kaila 2019.

Results

Based on these raw numbers, it is clear that LepIndex lacked around 50% of the currently expected number of accepted species for the family and that many synonyms were also missing. The actual situation was even more serious than this appears, because many names were accepted by LepIndex are now considered synonyms, and vice versa.

Here is a summary of results from the largest genus, Elachista. LepIndex had 355 names associated with 327 accepted species in this genus, whereas GLI has 1,046 names for 716 accepted species.

Overlap in species names within the genus Elachista between LepIndex and GLI. Names are considered to be a full match if spelling and authorship are identical (including parentheses) and if the two datasets give the same accepted name for the associated species.

Just 183 (56% of 327) accepted names in LepIndex exactly matched the spelling, authorship and status, and only 9 (32% of 28) synonyms exactly matched the spelling, authorship, status and accepted name offered by GLI. If variation in authorship (mostly missing years and/or parentheses) is ignored, these totals rise to 200 accepted names and 12 synonyms that match the expected species.

81 (25%) of the names accepted for Elachista species by LepIndex are now considered synonyms for other species in the genus. 36 accepted names (11%) now refer to species outside this genus.

6 (21%) of the LepIndex synonyms in this genus are now treated as synonyms for different species

In other words, of the 365 names that LepIndex associated with species in the genus Elachista, even ignoring issues with authorship strings, just 212 (58%) directed users to the currently accepted name for a species.

Reviewing this not from the perspective of what the taxonomic community knows and what names are actually in circulation for species in the genus Elachista (again ignoring issues with authorship):

  • Nearly 70% (507 of 716) of the currently accepted species names in Elachista were unknown to LepIndex/COL/GBIF a year ago
  • 78% (815 of 1,045) of the names now in TaxonWorks for Elachista species were unknown or incorrectly handled a year ago

Discussion

Elachistinae forms perhaps 0.3-0.4% of the total described Lepidoptera fauna, so these corrections are only a small step towards delivering a comprehensive and reliable catalogue for world Lepidoptera. This subfamily now joins Nepticuloidea, Gracillariidae, Gelechiidae, Lecithoceridae, Alucitidae, Pterophoridae, and Tortricidae as groups that are in good condition in the COL Checklist. Preparations are well under way to bring in some other major family-rank datasets that have been prepared over many years by dedicated groups of taxonomists. Both Geometridae and Bombycoidea are likely to be replaced in the next few months.

The rest of the Lepidoptera is covered by aging datasets. The Global Butterfly Information System dataset (GloBIS/GART) may soon be updated. This covers the Pieridae and Papilionidae. I am working on a refresh for Gaden S. Robinson’s Tineidae dataset which was last updated in 2011. Even the Nepticuloidea (last updated in 2016) is urgently awaiting a planned update. All the rest comes from LepIndex.

The following table compares accepted species counts for the same taxa in different datasets. This is a crude metric – if large numbers of names that should be treated as synonyms are included as accepted species names, this may inflate numbers. However, these numbers show clearly that effort to clean up LepIndex data always leads to significant increases in record counts.

TaxonLepIndexGLIRevisedYear↑%
NepticuloideaNA985107320169
GracillariidaeNA17462013202215
Elachistinae4108198192023100
Gelechiidae463947665799202325
Lecithoceridae78015181518202395
Alucitoidea186246260202340
PterophoroideaNA10571574202349
Tortricidae8697948511360201831
Geometridae212602249723969202213
Bombycoidea346351156617202291
Total[43213]482345500227
Total excl.
Geometridae
[21953]255373103341
Other
Lepidoptera
99690108627[126606]
[140563]
27
41
All
Lepidoptera
[142903]156861[181608]
[195565]
27
41
Comparison of accepted species counts for different Lepidoptera taxa between a) the last version of LepIndex imported into COL, b) Global Lepidoptera Index as of 2023-01-18, and c) versions curated in the last few years (year listed indicates date considered current) and considered nearly complete. Growth is shown as a percentage increase in the number of records since the older of LepIndex or GLI.

The COL version of LepIndex is missing names for taxa that had been sourced from other datasets prior to 2019. The total count provided for LepIndex uses GLI counts for these taxa – the total is therefore an overestimate, but the mean growth across these groups is at least 27%. Applying the same rate across all other Lepidoptera groups gives an estimate for the order of 181,608 accepted described species. There is reason to consider Geometridae an outlier since significant NHM work on the family preceded the 2011 version of LepIndex. Excluding Geometridae from the calculation raises the estimated percentage growth to 41%, giving an estimated species count of 195,565.

Revised versions are as follows: Nepticulidae and Opostegidae of the World (Oct 2016), Global Taxonomic Database of Gracillariidae (Jan 2022), GLI Elachistinae (Mar 2023), Catalogue of World Gelechiidae (Feb 2023), GLI Lecithoceridae (Mar 2023), Catalogue of the Alucitoidea of the World (Nov 2022), Catalogue of the Pterophoroidea of the World (Jan 2023), World Catalogue of the Tortricidae (Tortricid.net, Dec 2018), Geometridae (pending update, 2022), Bombycoidea (pending update, 2022). The last two datasets will be added to COL once associated taxonomic catalogues have been published.

The table shows two calculated estimates for the current total number of described Lepidoptera species. I consider it highly likely that most remaining groups will expand at least 41% as gaps in LepIndex are addressed. Given the large amount of ongoing revisionary work in the Noctuoidea (42,941 species in GLI today), it seems reasonable that this popular group may have gaps as significant as those shown here for Bombycoidea, which would inflate the numbers much further. At a minimum, Catalogue of Life today is likely to be missing 40,000 described Lepidoptera species.

I would note too that many I found for Elachistinae that LepIndex lacked many 19th century European and British names. Some of these are significant omissions, for example names from Haworth, Hübner and Herrich-Schäffer, including the currently accepted name for the widespread species Elachista freyerella (Hübner, 1825) (with hundreds of records in GBIF). Although the NHM card index was maintained into the 1990s, modern publications begin to disappear even from early in the 1980s.

I feel even more than before the need to make the scale of the challenge much more public and for COL to become more proactive in finding and promoting new ways for content to be edited. A traffic-light system for coverage and quality for each taxon would be a big step forward.

Categories
Araba Bioscan Lepidoptera

Lepidoptera Barcoding in Araba Bioscan

Background

Araba Bioscan is a project to improve understanding of arthropod (mostly insect) diversity at a single location, a suburban garden in Aranda, ACT close to open natural (dry sclerophyll) areas, including Black Mountain. This is one of the most intensively studied areas for insects in all of Australia, since the Australian National Insect Collection (ANIC) is located beside the Black Mountain reserve.

DNA barcoding

The project collected weekly samples from 23 October 2020 to 29 October 2022 in a Malaise trap. Further samples have been collected since 22 January 2023 using a SLAM trap. The ongoing effort is focused on identifying and documenting some less well-recorded groups, particularly ichneumonid wasps.

Samples from the first year were sent to the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics (CBG) in Guelph, ON, where 8,838 selected insects and other arthropods were extracted and imaged and their DNA barcodes were sequenced. This selection included:

  • 83 spiders (order Araneae)
  • 43 mites (subclass Acari)
  • 428 springtails (class Collembola)
  • 8 millipedes (class Diplopoda)
  • 32 cockroaches/termites (order Blattodea)
  • 274 beetles (order Coleoptera)
  • 4035 flies (order Diptera)
  • 924 true bugs (order Hemiptera)
  • 1573 wasps/bees/ants (order Hymenoptera)
  • 1138 moths/butterflies (order Lepidoptera)
  • 1 mantis (order Mantodea)
  • 64 lacewings (order Neuroptera)
  • 6 crickets/grasshoppers (order Orthoptera)
  • 183 barkflies (order Psocodea)
  • 1 twisted-wing insect (order Strepsiptera)
  • 22 thrips (order Thysanoptera)
  • 1 caddisfly (order Trichoptera)
  • 2 unspecified arthropods and 20 unspecified arachnids

Sequences from 7362 of these specimens matched a BIN (Barcode Index Number, associated with a cluster of DNA barcodes), indicating a high probability that these are the same species or a very close relative. Many of the specimens in these BINs have been identified, so the DNA barcodes provide a tool to assign scientific names to species found at the location.

This post looks at the results for the Lepidoptera specimens sequenced by Guelph. I had already spent many years light-trapping, photographing and identifying insects, and particularly moths, at this site. This includes 2,840 observations of moths and butterflies representing 599 distinct species on iNaturalist (plus many recognisable moths that may be identifiable to genus but have no scientific name).

A team from CBG made several visits to ANIC to sequence reference specimens of most Australian moth species (including many that are unnamed). This means that the barcode library for Lepidoptera is much more complete than for any other group of Australian insects and most forms are associated with at least genus-level identifications.

This makes the Lepidoptera an ideal test case for evaluating the information gain associated with a DNA-based insect survey. Malaise traps are not the preferred tool for sampling Lepidoptera and will not collect many large species which may be very conspicuous at light. On the other hand, they are efficient at collecting smaller insects and have no bias against species that may be drab, inconspicuous and hard to identify base on their external appearance.

The Araba Bioscan barcode data can be explored on the BOLD Australia site. This site holds a snapshot of all data in the Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) that relates to Australian specimens. It allows these specimens to be grouped and viewed by scientific names (based on the identifications provided by submitters) or by BIN clusters. This makes it easier to explore how well identifications align with (mitochondrial) genetic variation.

If BOLD Australia is accessed using the link the supplied above, the taxa and specimens recorded as part of the Araba Bioscan project (specimens with processIDs beginning “GMAEA”) are highlighted in orange.

Of the 1138 Lepidoptera records, 338 are currently identified only as far as the order, 121 are identified only to family, 70 to subfamily, 283 to genus and 326 to species. These specimens span 39 families, 44 subfamilies and 102 genera. Identifications from BOLD include the following 79 species (listed here with the families assigned in BOLD):

  1. Bedellia somnulentella (Bedelliidae, 35 individuals)
  2. Blastobasis tarda (Blastobasidae, 8 individuals)
  3. Tebenna micalis (Choreutidae, 2 individuals)
  4. Cholotis semnostola (Cosmopterigidae, 2 individuals)
  5. Macrobathra ceraunobola (Cosmopterigidae, 1 individual)
  6. Achyra affinitalis (Crambidae, 1 individual)
  7. Uresiphita ornithopteralis (Crambidae, 4 individuals)
  8. Nacoleia rhoeoalis (Crambidae, 18 individuals)
  9. Eutorna tricasis (Depressariidae, 1 individual)
  10. Elachista velox (Elachistidae, 3 individuals)
  11. Anestia semiochrea (Erebidae, 3 individuals)
  12. Asura lydia (Erebidae, 1 individual)
  13. Threnosia heminephes (Erebidae, 1 individual)
  14. Pantydia sparsa (Erebidae, 1 individual)
  15. Pantydia diemeni (Erebidae, 2 individuals)
  16. Sandava xylistis (Erebidae, 1 individual)
  17. Mesophleps crocina (Gelechiidae, 1 individual)
  18. Orthoptila abruptella (Gelechiidae, 1 individual)
  19. Ardozyga stratifera (Gelechiidae, 1 individual)
  20. Ephysteris subdiminutella (Gelechiidae, 1 individual)
  21. Epiphthora thyellias (Gelechiidae, 5 individuals)
  22. Ectropis excursaria (Geometridae, 1 individual)
  23. Lipogya exprimataria (Geometridae, 7 individuals)
  24. Melanodes anthracitaria (Geometridae, 1 individual)
  25. Mnesampela privata (Geometridae, 1 individual)
  26. Phelotis cognata (Geometridae, 27 individuals)
  27. Psilosticha absorpta (Geometridae, 4 individuals)
  28. Zermizinga sinuata (Geometridae, 1 individual)
  29. Poecilasthena thalassias (Geometridae, 5 individuals)
  30. Dialectica scalariella (Gracillariidae, 6 individuals)
  31. Taractrocera dolon (mistaken identification, actually Ocybadistes walkeri, Hesperiidae, 1 individual)
  32. Genduara punctigera (Lasiocampidae, 3 individuals)
  33. Crocanthes prasinopis (Lecithoceridae, 11 individual)
  34. Crocanthes micradelpha (Lecithoceridae, 2 individuals)
  35. Proteuxoa hypochalchis (Noctuidae, 6 individuals)
  36. Chrysodeixis subsidens (Noctuidae, 1 individual)
  37. Acanthodela protophaes (Oecophoridae, 1 individual)
  38. Acantholena hiemalis (Oecophoridae, 1 individual)
  39. Aeolothapsa malacella (Oecophoridae, 1 individual)
  40. Delexocha ochrocausta (Oecophoridae, 1 individual)
  41. Eulechria eriphila (Oecophoridae, 1 individual)
  42. Eusemocosma pruinosa (Oecophoridae, 1 individual)
  43. Garrha rubella (Oecophoridae, 1 individual)
  44. Garrha leucerythra (Oecophoridae, 8 individuals)
  45. Guestia uniformis (Oecophoridae, 1 individual)
  46. Heterozyga coppatias (Oecophoridae, 2 individuals)
  47. Hoplostega ochroma (Oecophoridae, 54 individuals)
  48. Leistomorpha brontoscopa (Oecophoridae, 2 individuals)
  49. Merocroca automima (misspelled as “automina“, Oecophoridae, 1 individual)
  50. Olbonoma triptycha (Oecophoridae, 9 individuals)
  51. Oxythecta lygrosema (Oecophoridae, 1 individual)
  52. Pachyceraia ochromochla (Oecophoridae, 5 individuals)
  53. Philobota cretacea (Oecophoridae, 2 individuals)
  54. Philobota stella (Oecophoridae, 1 individual)
  55. Philobota xiphostola (Oecophoridae, 2 individuals)
  56. Pseudotheta syrtica (Oecophoridae, 1 individual)
  57. Tachystola stenoptera (Oecophoridae, 1 individual)
  58. Telanepsia coprobora (Oecophoridae, 1 individual)
  59. Telanepsia tidbinbilla (Oecophoridae, 2 individuals)
  60. Oenosandra boisduvalii (Oenosandridae, 1 individual)
  61. Belenois java (Pieridae, 1 individual)
  62. Plutella australiana (Plutellidae, 2 individuals)
  63. Prays autocasis (Praydidae, 1 individual)
  64. Spectrotrota fimbrialis (Pyralidae, 10 individuals)
  65. Salma pyrastis (Pyralidae, 1 individual)
  66. Heteromicta pachytera (Pyralidae, 2 individuals)
  67. Crocydopora cinigerella (Pyralidae, 1 individual)
  68. Endotricha pyrosalis (Pyralidae, 2 individuals)
  69. Crocidosema plebejana (Tortricidae, 1 individual)
  70. Strepsicrates macropetana (Tortricidae, 1 individual)
  71. Asthenoptycha hemicryptana (Tortricidae, 1 individual)
  72. Cnephasia orthias (Tortricidae, 2 individuals)
  73. Epiphyas ashworthana (Tortricidae, 3 individuals)
  74. Meritastis pyrosemana (Tortricidae, 5 individuals)
  75. Meritastis polygraphana (Tortricidae, 10 individuals)
  76. Merophyas divulsana (Tortricidae, 4 individuals)
  77. Scieropepla serina (Xyloryctidae, 1 individual)
  78. Eumenodora encrypta (Xyloryctidae, 6 individuals)
  79. Zelleria cynetica (Yponomeutidae, 1 individual)

Reviewing this list identified the issues listed for bullets 31 and 49. These are being corrected in BOLD. The species known to BOLD as Cnephasia orthias Meyrick, 1910 is not a true Cnephasia but belongs to a group for which a new genus needs to be established. Many Australian sources use the name Rupicolana orthias (Meyrick, 1910) (reflecting its placement in an informal “Rupicolana GROUP”, followed apparently by some bad parsing of this name).

56 of these species are ones that I have identified and recorded from light-trapping and other previous activities in the garden. Most of these are common and familiar species. Their detection and recognition from reference reflects the completeness and quality of the reference barcode library for Australian moths.

As expected, most insects collected are smaller moths, with a large proportion of Gelechioidea and especially Oecophorinae (reflecting Australian biodiversity patterns).

There are 23 species that I had not previously identified using non-DNA methods. As the following thumbnails show, many of these are small species without conspicuous markings. Most or all of them are familiar to me as insects that have been difficult or impossible to identify accurately. Around a third of them are moths I confidently identify to genus but which I cannot progress further because it is unclear how to separate some of the named species (often with only late 19th or early 20th century descriptions) or because it is clear that there is massive undescribed or unmapped diversity in the genus.

New species for the site

Nondescript species

I would characterise 12 of these 23 species as ones that lack conspicuous characters: Cholotis semnostola, Mesophleps crocina, Ephysteris subdiminutella, Epiphthora thyellias, Acantholena hiemalis, Guestia uniformis, Pseudotheta syrtica, Telanepsia coprobora, Telanepsia tidbinbilla, Prays autocasis, Scieropepla serina and Eumenodora encrypta. I would not have expected to identify these insects since doing so would require significant specimen preparation and probably dissection, and even then I would not have been confident that identification would be easy. These are all species that must get massively underreported because they are hard to diagnose by classical methods.

Eumenodora encrypta proved to be reasonably common in the garden (six individuals barcoded, even though this is a species with no records currently on iNaturalist). This species is so cryptic that, prior to a 2013 paper by Lauri Kaila, it was only known from the type specimen and its family placement was uncertain. Kaila referenced multiple specimens from Black Mountain and considered it likely that the species is actually common. One of the specimens sequenced in BOLD and now within this BIN (BOLD:AAM4364) is referenced in Kaila 2013, so the identification is assured.

Blastobasis tarda

Most Blastobasis are rather similar in appearance and I have not attempted to identify those in the garden. The BOLD records from this project include eight assigned to Blastobasis tarda and four belonging to a second BIN (BOLD:AAA9854) that lacks any species identification.

Ardozyga stratifera

I believe I would have identified this moth as Ardozyga catarrhacta, which has a very similar appearance and to which I have identified five of my iNaturalist records. Based on the markings along the costa of the forewing, I believe those other records are indeed catarrhacta, but I have probably missed individuals that could have been assigned to stratifera.

Crocanthes prasinopis

This is one of another group of rather similar species. I have usually identified Crocanthes individuals with this general appearance as Crocanthes glycina (which was not recorded among the 13 barcoded individuals of this genus from my garden). Criteria for separating these species remain unclear to me, but a review of my past identifications is in order.

Eulechria eriphila, Garrha rubella and Garrha leucerythra

These three moths are very similar in outward appearance. I knew that Eulechria (a very diverse genus) includes some insects with this general appearance but I would normally assign all these to an unsorted “Garrha” category. I have 71 iNaturalist observations for moths identified to the genus Garrha, but have not generally progressed far with any other than the most well marked species. Since this genus includes so many outwardly similar forms, this has meant that only 25 of 71 were identified to species. DNA barcoding has clarified some of this unresolved diversity, but I need to spend more time before I would feel confident identifying these species by other methods.

Oxythecta lygrosema

Oxythecta are common and reasonably conspicuous moths here, but the genus includes several rather similar species, and I am now convinced that I have consistently misidentified Oxythecta lygrosema as Oxythecta acceptella. The markings on acceptella seem to be much more crisply defined than on lygrosema.

Pachyceraia ochromochla

This identification seems uncertain. Two distinct BINs are placed under this name, both associated with ANIC specimens, but with rather different appearances. My specimens fall into the larger BIN (BOLD:ABX0360) which seems to hold very nondescript moths.

Philobota xiphostola

Philobota is a massive and frequently abundant genus which seems to shuffle a suite of repeated characters to create new species. Several well-marked local species remain undescribed. Even where individuals have been identified to species, there is unhandled diversity – for example, one of the barcoded specimens in this project falls into BIN BOLD:AAV4780, which is identified from ANIC specimens as Philobota stella. I have identified individuals as belonging to this species. However, the specimens identified with this species name in BOLD fall into three different BINs. Whether these merit separation is unclear and would require further investigation.

In the same way, specimens in BOLD for Philobota xiphostola fall into two BINs. One of these, BOLD:ACF1457, is currently only known from three specimens in ANIC that were collected much closer to the NSW coast, but the one holding my specimen, BOLD:AAV4778, includes many more, mainly from around the ACT. It is pleasing to be able to align local Philobota having this appearance with other matching records.

Plutella australiana

Diamondback moths are abundant throughout Australia and a major global pest. Almost everywhere in the world, these can easily be assigned to Plutella xylostella, but Landry & Hebert 2013 recognised a second Australian species, Plutella australiana, only diagnosable via genitalia or DNA.

Since 2013, Australian diamondback moths have generally been identified only to the complex of the two species. The two specimens barcoded in this project both fell into the BIN for australiana. It is gratifying to be able to place a species name at least on these records.

Asthenoptycha hemicryptana

Miscellaneous brown and blotched tortricids are one of my blindspots – I find them very difficult to identify and have not generally bothered with any other than the most clearly marked species. As an indication of the challenge, one of the specimens in BOLD that has been identified as Asthenoptycha hemicryptana falls into BIN BOLD:AAJ9668. This BIN includes specimens associated with five binomials and four placeholder species names, most of them from ANIC.

My specimen falls into BIN BOLD:AAZ9337, with the identification supported by another ANIC specimen.

Based on this confusion, I still feel cautious about identifying this individual any further than Asthenoptycha.

Moths without species identifications

This section includes comments on some of the BINs that do not yet resolve to species identifications.

Dryadaula

Ten small moths matched BIN BOLD:AAM9461 and are identified to belong to the genus Dryadaula. Until recently this was included in the Tineidae, but recent work has established a new family Dryadaulidae. Yang & Li 2021 gives an update on this change and shows some species.

Gracillariidae

BIN BOLD:ABX2205 includes 65 moths. 64 of these are from my garden, with the remaining insect collected by the CBG team a few kilometers away near ANIC. Most of the specimens lack any recognisable features, but it seems to be a mid- to dark-brown gracillariid with a paler head and thorax and ill-defined pale bands across the distal half of the forewings. I suspect that this is a Caloptilia species. Several can be seen in this weekly sample photo from the same week as some of the barcoded individuals.

Perthida

BIN BOLD:AAY1668 includes two individuals that cluster with other specimens of the leafminer genus Perthida (Incurvariidae).

Conclusion

The Australian DNA barcode library still requires massive curation, even for Lepidoptera, which remains the best sampled taxon.

However, even without strategic selection of specimens to barcode a truly representative selection of moths, these Malaise samples demonstrate how DNA-based surveys can complement light-trapping and citizen science observations.

Categories
Biodiversity Informatics Lepidoptera Species Lists

Global Lepidoptera Index

Overview

Comprehensive species lists are important tools for taxonomists, field biologists, conservationists, biosecurity officers, policymakers, biodiversity data platforms, amateur naturalists and many others (see the list of open-access papers Towards a global list of accepted species).

Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) are a hyperdiverse group for which we still lack a high-quality synonymised checklist. Many users and websites rely on LepIndex, a database created from a card index at the Natural History Museum (NHM), London but this is very incomplete and needs significant curation.

The Catalogue of Life (COL) Checklist has treated LepIndex as its primary resource for Lepidoptera but replaces several families with more complete and current datasets from various sources. I have helped to prepare and continue to maintain such datasets for Gelechiidae, Pterophoridae and Alucitidae.

Over the last few years, a copy of LepIndex has been imported into the TaxonWorks online taxonomic workbench tool as the Global Lepidoptera Index, and significant improvements have been made to some sections (especially Bombycoidea and Geometridae). From June 2022, this TaxonWorks dataset replaces the NHM version of LepIndex in COL. TaxonWorks is a collaborative data management tool which opens the door for a much wider community of taxonomists and other experts to work together on delivering a truly comprehensive and current listing of the world’s butterflies and moths.

The challenge

Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) form one of the largest insect orders. Close to 10% of all known species of living organisms are Lepidoptera. They are among the most easily surveyed and monitored insect groups, with more than 75 million occurrence records in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) today (compared with 22 million records for Coleoptera). As a highly diversified group feeding on most plant species and other substrates, sampling and monitoring Lepidoptera can give broad insights into ecosystem complexity, health and dynamics.

In 2008, John Heppner (p. 627 in: Capinera, J.L. Encyclopedia of Entomology) estimated that the Lepidoptera number 255,000 extant species with around 156,100 currently named. Michael Pogue (Biodiversity of Lepidoptera, pp. 325-355 in Foottit, R.G & Adler P.H. (2009) Insect Biodiversity – Science and Society) offered a calculation (based on multiple datasets) showing 155,181 described species. The Catalogue of Life (COL) Annual Checklist 2021 contained 148,897 accepted Lepidoptera species. Changes discussed here have raised this count to 154,344 accepted species.

During the last few years, I have updated and digitised species lists developed by Klaus Sattler at the Natural History Museum, London for the Gelechiidae and by Cees Gielis at Naturalis, Leiden for the Alucitidae (including Tineodidae), Pterophoridae and Macropiratidae. This affords an opportunity to assess the completeness of LepIndex and the accuracy of the estimates in Capinera 2008 and Pogue 2009. The following table compares the counts of accepted species in each of these groups in Pogue 2009 and the current datasets now in Catalogue of Life:

GroupPogue COLIncrease
Gelechiidae4570577726%
Alucitidae (including Tineodidae)20826025%
Pterophoridae (including Macropiratidae)1192156231%
Total5970759927%
Species counts for selected Lepidoptera families in Pogue 2009 and the latest Catalogue of Life datasets, with percentage increase in COL.

In each of these groups, at least 25% more species have been described and are currently accepted by taxonomists than are indicated in the published estimates. It therefore seems likely that the total count of currently described Lepidoptera species may be much closer to 200,000.

However, partly owing to the continued level of taxonomic research across the group and partly because of the sheer size of the order, there is still no truly comprehensive and current list of described species for this group. For many years, the Global Lepidoptera Names Index (LepIndex) has served as the reference checklist used by many biodiversity data platforms to organise data on Lepidoptera. LepIndex is a digitised and updated version of an index card archive to the scientific names of the living and fossil butterflies and moths of the world produced over many decades by lepidopterists at the Natural History Museum (London). The stated coverage for this dataset is 137,441 species.

The current situation

For many years, LepIndex has provided most of the Lepidoptera names and classification used in the Catalogue of Life (COL) Checklist, although several families have been sourced from other datasets that have been more fully curated by taxonomists familiar with the groups, specifically:

The remainder of the Lepidoptera coverage (120 families) in COL comes from LepIndex.

The NHM card index was a nomenclatural catalogue rather than a synonymic species list and was never completely curated to reflect all revisions of the order. Coverage of literature from the 1980s onwards is very incomplete and the last edits to the dataset were made in 2018. As a result, LepIndex has the following weaknesses as a resource for organising biodiversity data:

  • Large numbers of new names, combinations and revisions are missing, especially from the last 30 years.
  • The original generic placement (original combination) for many names is not reliably recorded – this at least makes LepIndex unreliable for determining whether parentheses are required around authorship.
  • The only combinations that may be provided are the original combination and one current when each card was last edited – in many cases, only one combination is available.
  • Many names currently considered synonyms are shown as (provisionally) accepted.
  • For the most part, higher classification is limited to family and these do not map consistently to current family concepts, especially in superfamilies such as Gelechioidea and Noctuoidea.
  • A significant number of names were mistranscribed from the original card images resulting in inaccurate spellings.

Despite these flaws, LepIndex has remained in use as a reference classification because no other digital resource is as comprehensive. Even Markku Savela’s excellent Lepidoptera and some other life forms site (which accurately handles much of the more recent literature) contains slightly under 117,000 species and Wikispecies contains under 112,500 pages that include the word “Lepidoptera” (including many that relate to other ranks than species, literature references including the word, etc.). As platforms such as GBIF have expanded their importance, the weaknesses of LepIndex have become clearer and more pressing.

The response

LepIndex has been migrated into the TaxonWorks online taxonomic workbench platform developed and maintained by the Species File Group in Illinois. This is a rich editing environment for nomenclatural and taxonomic datasets and provides many useful tools for editors to contribute updates and corrections.

Many corrections and updates have been applied to the TaxonWorks version of LepIndex, including major revisions to the Bombycoidea and some other families.

The dataset will regularly be published to ChecklistBank as the Global Lepidoptera Index. ChecklistBank is an online platform developed by GBIF and COL to hosts checklist datasets and including the tools used each month to construct the COL Checklist. ChecklistBank also allows any dataset to be downloaded in multiple formats or accessed through a public API.

Additionally, a new family dataset for the Gelechiidae (Catalogue of World Gelechiidae) is now available in ChecklistBank. This is based on the list maintained over many years by Klaus Sattler at NHM but has been updated to include changes made in the literature in the last five years and to serve as a placeholder for a few names that were included as Gelechiidae in LepIndex but that have no current accepted family placement. Associated changes have also been made to the Global Lepidoptera Index to move other species that were previously considered to be Gelechiidae into the currently accepted family.

Now that these datasets are accessible through ChecklistBank, the June 2022 edition of Catalogue of Life includes them in its construction. The following table summarises the current components of the COL Checklist for Lepidoptera.

FamiliesDatasetNotes
Nepticulidae
Opostegidae
Nepticulidae and Opostegidae of the WorldLast updated 2016
Exploring fresh import
TineidaeGlobal taxonomic database of Tineidae (Lepidoptera)Based on data from the late Gaden S. Robinson. Last updated 2011
Needs full update
GracillariidaeGlobal Taxonomic Database of GracillariidaeUpdated January 2022
GelechiidaeCatalogue of World GelechiidaeUpdated June 2022
Expected integration into Global Lepidoptera Index
Pterophoridae
Macropodidae
Catalogue of the Pterophoroidea of the WorldUpdated June 2022
Expected integration into Global Lepidoptera Index
AlucitidaeCatalogue of the Alucitoidea of the WorldUpdated June 2022
Expected integration into Global Lepidoptera Index
Papilionidae
Pieridae
Lycaenidae
Global Butterfly Information SystemLast updated 2013
New update expected
Lycaenidae coverage is incomplete and must be reviewed
All othersGlobal Lepidoptera IndexUpdated June 2022
Current status of components in COL Checklist

I plan to integrate the Gelechiidae, Pterophoridae/Macropiratidae and Alucitidae datasets into the Global Lepidoptera Index dataset. The Nepticulidae/Opostegidae, Gracillariidae and Papilionidae/Pieridae datasets are actively maintained outside TaxonWorks but more regular imports are needed. The Tineidae need more work but are also likely to be merged into the Global Lepidoptera Index.

How to contribute

More work is required on almost all other families. Discussions are underway to bring in copies of well-managed datasets for several other families, but contributors or editors are sought for other components. Contributions may take any of the following forms:

  1. Regular copies of existing global superfamily/family/subfamily/tribe datasets that are already maintained externally using other tools. Merging efforts around TaxonWorks as a common platform for all lepidopteran groups would bring significant benefits, but the priority is to maintain high-quality checklists for each group.
  2. A single copy of an existing global superfamily/family/subfamily/tribe that can be shared with COL under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) or Creative Commons Zero (CC0) licence.
  3. Editors (or teams of editors) ready to assume responsibility for updating and maintaining a group within the Global Lepidoptera Index. We can arrange training in the use of the tools.

In all cases, COL advocates for the approach outlined in Garnett et al. 2020 Principles for creating a single authoritative list of the world’s species. Lists should be developed collaboratively by taxonomists and other experts working on the group. Decision processes should be transparent and aim to secure an appropriate consensus view. As far as possible, there should be no barriers to contribution and participation by relevant taxonomists from any region.

Since an increasing proportion of new and even historical taxonomic literature is being made accessible in structured formats (e.g. Pensoft journals, Plazi TreatmentBank), and since most of these datasets will be accessible through ChecklistBank, there is a great opportunity to automate (or semi-automate) inclusion of new taxa, combinations and synonymy.

Categories
Australia Pterophoridae

Nippoptilia vitis in Queensland

At present, the Australian Faunal Database lists only one species from the genus Nippoptilia (Pterophoridae: Pterophorinae: Platyptiliini) as known to occur in Australia, Nippoptilia cinctipedalis (Walker, 1864). This species was added to the Australian list by Ernst Arenberger in 2006 and is now frequently recorded by observers down the east coast of the country, from Thursday Island in Far North Queensland to Tinonee in New South Wales, as well as from Nhulunbuy in the Northern Territory.

Nippoptilia cinctipedalis is a highly distinctive member of its genus, with the first forewing lobe tapering to a point rather than showing a clear termen, and with a tawny ground colour and prominent darker brown markings on the dorsum of segments 2-3, 5 and 7 of the abdomen.

Alongside these moths, several individuals have been photographed from Nhulunbuy (NT) and Witta (QLD) that show the characteristic appearance of the remaining members of the genus, darker ground colouration, narrow forewings with a well-defined and angled termen and an overall ‘spiky’ appearance from the long tibial spurs and pointed wingtips.

Examples from Nhulunbuy:

Examples from Witta:

Two specimens were collected from Witta on 27 January 2021 for dissection, from a population feeding on a native grape vine, Cayratia clematidea (F.Muell.) Domin. Both these moths were female with genitalia matching those presented for Nippoptilia vitis (Sasaki, 1913) in the paper A taxonomic review of the genus Nippoptilia (Lepidoptera: Pterophoridae) from Korea, with description of a new species. This is based on the extraordinary lateral tufts of scales on either side of the antrum, the notched tip of the antrum and the narrow leaf-like signa on the corpus bursae.

The following are placeholder images to document the occurrence and validate the identification. I hope to provide better images once the genitalia have been properly mounted on slides.

Categories
Australia Pterophoridae

On the identity of Pterophorus tinctidactylus Newman, 1856

On 3 December 1855, Edward Newman read a paper to the Entomological Society of London on Characters of a few Australian Lepidoptera, collected by Mr. Thomas R. Oxley, subsequently published (in 1856) in the society’s Transactions (New Series, 3(8): 281-300). Oxley’s specimens were collected in Victoria, Australia, “at Forest Creek, Barker’s Creek and Campbell’s Creek, all on the Mount Alexander Range, and at a distance of about eighty miles from Melbourne.”

This paper described one new plume moth on page 300:


Genus PTEROPHORUS, Geoffroy.

Sp. 1. Pterophorus tinctidactylus, Newm.

Albus citreo-tinctus, lunula alarum pallide fusca anticarum, posticis dilute ochreo-cinereis. (Alarum dilat. ·65 unc.)

[i.e. Lemon-tinged white, with a pale fuscous crescent on the fore wings, and with hind wings slightly ochreous grey. (Wingspan 0.65 ? inches ?)]

White with a very slight tinge of lemon colour; on the fore wings is an indistinct brown mark just at the base of the cleft ; the hind wings are pale ochreous grey.

A single specimen only was taken ; it a good deal resembles P. osteodactylus, but is readily distinguished by the paler colour of the posterior wings, and by the citron-yellow — not fuscous hue — of the antennae. A second species of Pterophorus also forms part of the collection, but is so injured that I cannot venture to characterize it.


The type for tinctidactylus is apparently lost. Subsequent authors have suggested various ways to interpret Newman’s description.

Writing of Australian Pyralidina in 1885, Edward Meyrick simply wrote that he could not speak with certainty of P. tinctidactylus, Newm.

In 1994, Michael Schaffer and Ebbe S. Nielsen (in Nielsen E.S, Edwards E.D. & Rangsi T.V., Checklist of the Lepidoptera of Australia) offered a new combination, Hellinsia tinctidactylus (Newman, 1856). No explanation was offered, but this reflects Newman’s original statement that his species resembled Pterophorus osteodactylus, which is now treated as Hellinsia osteodactylus (Zeller, 1841).

In 2003, Cees Gielis (in World Catalogue of Insects Volume 4: Pterophoroidea &Alucitoidea (Lepidoptera)) tentatively (with two question marks) suggested that Newman’s species might be an alternative name for Platyptilia celidotus (Meyrick, 1884). If this proved true, Newman’s name predates Meyrick’s and would become the accepted name for the species. However, there seems no reason to suggest the identity between these species. Newman is clear that his insect is yellowish, whereas Platyptilia celidotus is a greyish to ivory-coloured insect. P. celidotus does have an streak at the base of the forewing cleft, but this is straight and angled.

There is however an Australian plume moth found in the region where Oxley collected his specimens and which fits Newman’s short description. His comparison was with Hellinsia osteodactylus, which indeed has a lemon-coloured tinge:

Hellinsia osteodactyla (Zeller, 1845) – J. Tyllinen, Copyrighted free use, via Wikimedia Commons

Imbophorus aptalis (Walker, 1864) (originally Aciptilus aptalis Walker, 1864) is a lemon-yellow coloured species with a variable crescent-shaped fuscous mark at the base of the cleft, yellow antennae, and paler hindwings than Hellinsia osteodactylus:

Imbophorus aptalis (Walker, 1864) – Specimen from Australian National Insect Collection, via Barcode of Life Database
Imbophorus aptalis (Walker, 1864) – Fresh individual, Victor W. Fazio III, via iNaturalist

The resemblance seems clear. Again, Newman’s description actually predates Walker’s description of Aciptilia aptalis and the name would have precedence, if the type were still available for confirmation.

Categories
Macropiratidae

Agdistopis griveaudi Gibeaux, 1994

This post is a contribution to assist with comparison of the known species in the genus Agdistopis Hampson, 1917 (Lepidoptera: Macropiratidae).

In 1994, Christian Gibeaux published Faune de Madagascar, 81: Insectes Lépidoptères Pterophoridae, in which he described the first Afrotropical Macropiratidae species from a single specimen collected in Madagascar in 1961.

Gibeaux treated the macropiratids as a subfamily (Macropiratinae) within the Pterophoridae. His key distinguishes the subfamily as having 1) “ailes antérieures et postérieures entières” (all wings undivided) and 2) “revers de l’aile postérieure sans [une double rangée d’écailles modifiées sur le lobe médian]” (without a double series of modified scales on the middle lobe of the hind wing).

His treatment is as follows:

Sous-famille MACROPIRATINAE

Petite sous-famille ne comportant que deux taxa connus, le troisième appartenant à la faune malgache, est décrit ici.

Gibeaux, C. (1994). Faune de Magascar 81: Insectes Lépidoptères Pterophoridae 10

Agdistopis Hampson

Agdistopis Hampson, 1917 : 43 (espèce type du genre : Agdistopis petrochroa Hampson, 1917 : 44, de Formose, désigné par l’auteur, un synonyme d’Agdistis sinhala Fletcher, 1909 : 8, décrit de Ceylan).

Description. — Palpes labiaux porrigés, d’une longueur égale à deux fois le diamètre de la tête, élargis à leur base par des écailles : palpes maxillaires présents, mais petits ; éperons tibiaux courts : 0, 2, 4.

Aile antérieure avec Sc libre, R tigées (R2 absente), R4 à l’apex, M1 libre, M2 et M3 tigées, Cu1 et Cu2 libres, CuP présente, pas de boucle anale.

Aile postérieure avec Sc+R atteignant l’apex, une branche de M absente, CuP faible, deux anales.

Genitalia ♂ (d’après Inoué) avec le pénis sans caecum ventral, saccus présent, valve amplement bilobée, pas d’uncus proéminent.

Genitalia ♀ aves les apophyses postérieures et antérieures présentes, l’antrum couvert de spinules, le ductus bursae long, la bursa peu individualisée par rapport au ductus, ne portant aucun signum.

Répartition géographique. — Ceylan, Formose, Sud du Japon, îles Fidji et Madagascar.

Commentaire. — La famille des Macropiratidae a été créée , ainsi que le nouveau genre Macropiratis, pour deux nouvelles espèces par Meyrick (1932 : 248-249), la première des Fidji, la seconde de Ceylan. Whalley (1964 : 592) a montré (a) que Macropiratis Meyrick (1932) était un synonyme d’Agdistopis Hampson (1917) décrit comme Pyralidae Galleriinae et (b) que le genre d’Hampson était plus à sa place parmi les Pterophoridae. Minet (1991 : 85 et 87) a confirmé cette opinion, mais en créant une sous-famille spéciale, celle des Macropiratinae, qu’il considère comme la plus primitive des Pterophoridae. L’avis de Minet sera suivi ici, bien que, d’après les spécialistes de Pterophoridae, il conviendrait de rétablir la famille des Macropiratidae.

Gibeaux, C. (1994). Faune de Magascar 81: Insectes Lépidoptères Pterophoridae 10

Agdistopis griveaudi n. sp. (fig. 23)

Agdistopis griveaudi holotype
Agdistopis griveaudi holotype (Gibeaux, 1994, fig. 23)

Type. — Holotype : 1 ♀, Madagascar Centre, S. d’Ambohimahasoa, forêt de Tsarafidy [canton de Tsarafidy, forêt d’Ankafina], 1 450 m, I-1961 (P. Griveaud) (genitalia, prép. Chr. Gibeaux no 4822) (MNHN).

Description. — Envergure : 23 mm ; longueur de la côte des ailes antérieures : 11 mm.

♂. — Il m’est inconnu.

♀. — Antennes brisées, les segments subsistants sont gris-brun. Palpes labiaux (fig. 1) gris-beige, porrigées. Tête grise, avec une bande mediane brune. Thorax et ptérygodes gris-brun. Dessus de l’abdomen gris-brun, avec les sixième et septième tergites plus foncés, latéralement brun foncé, et la partie postérieure de chaque tergite gris perle. Dessous de lábdomen avec la moitié basale brun foncé, ensuite brunâtre. Pattes pro- et mésothoraciques brisées, les fémurs droits subsistants sont beiges. Pattes métathoraciques beige brilant de reflets dorés, ombrées de brunâtre aux articulations, les deux paires d’éperons très courts. Dessous du thorax beige.

Aile antérieure brune, avec : la moitié longitudinale supérieure blanchâtre jusqu’à la cellule, ombrée de brunâtre dans celle-ci ; une ligne transversale oblique antémarginale, la marge, les nervures et une ligne virguliforme au milieu du bord interne du même blanchâtre ; après la cellule, délimitant la zone blanchâtre, une ligne oblique brune, partant de la côte jusqu’à la base du disque ; l’aire marginale, entre la ligne transversale oblique blanchâtre et les franges, brune transversée par les nervures blanchâtres. Franges costales, avant l’apex, blanchâtres ; franges d bord externe composées de deux rangées d’écailles, la première, de moitié plus courte que la seconde, est brun doré, plus clair à la base, la second est brunâtre, également plus claire à la base. Dessous de l’aile marron foncé, aves les dessins blanchâtres transparaissant légèrement.

Aile postérieure marron doré, ainsi que les franges, mais celles-ci paraissent, sous un certain angle, grisâtres. Dessous de l’aile de même couleur que le dessous des ailes antérieures.

Gibeaux, C. (1994). Faune de Magascar 81: Insectes Lépidoptères Pterophoridae 10-12
Agdistopis griveaudi female genitalia
Agdistopis griveaudi female genitalia (Gibeaux, 1994, figs. 96-98)

Genitalia (fig. 96) aves les papilles anales peu marquées, les apophyses postérieures et antérieures assez longues et fines, l’antrum (fig. 98) presque rectangulaire, recouvert de spinules, l’ostium bursae (fig. 97) long, le ductus bursae très long, la bursa peu individulisée par rapport au ductus, ne portant aucun signum, le ductus seminalis émergeant peu après l’ostium.

Distribution. — On ne connait que la localité de l’holotype.

Biologie. — Premiers états inconnus. Espèce se trouvant dans les formations botanique particulières du Domaine du Centre situées au Sud d’Ambohimahasoa.

Répartition géographique. — Madagascar, où l’espèce nést actuellement connue que la région du Centre.

Gibeaux, C. (1994). Faune de Magascar 81: Insectes Lépidoptères Pterophoridae 10-12
Categories
Macropiratidae

Macropiratidae Meyrick, 1932

This post is to make the text available for Edward Meyrick’s original description of the moth family Macropiratidae and its monotypic genus Macropiratis (now synonymised with Agdistopis Hampson, 1917). This family and genus, along with two species descriptions (Macropiratis halieutica n. sp. and Macropiratis heteromantis n. sp.) appear on pages 248-249 of the fourth volume of Meyrick’s Exotic Microlepidoptera, which unfortunately remains unavailable online.

The text reads as follows:

MACROPIRATIDAE.

MACROPIRATIS, n. g.

Face oblique or vertical, scales projecting roughly at lower edge; ocelli posterior, distinct; tongue absent. Antennae under ½, ♂ flat-dentate, ciliated, scape short. Labial palpi straight, porrected, with appressed scales, differing specifically. Maxillary palpi imperceptible. Posterior tibiae very long, slender, smooth outer middle spurs ¾ of inner. Abdomen very long and slender. Forewings 2 from ⅔-¾, 3 from near angle, 4 and 5 stalked, 6 from near 9, 7 and 8 out of 9, 10 apparently absent, 11 nearly approximated to 9. Hindwings 1¼, cubital pecten strong and well-developed; 2 from ¾, 3 and 4 short-stalked from angle, 5 obsolete, apparently represented by an imperfect medial fold, 6 and 7 stalked from angle, 8 apparently absent, absorbed throughout in 7.

Type halieutica Meyr. This singular genus presents an exceptional combination of characters which excludes it from all established families of Pyralidina, and I am therefore obliged to form a new family for it. The insects have the aspect of an entire-winged Pterophorid, but do not possess the cubital series of spinules on the lower surface of hindwings invariably characteristic of that family, and are otherwise anomalous; the apparent absence of maxillary palpi is however a point of resemblance, and there is probably a real relationship.

Meyrick, Edward (1932). Exotic Microlepidoptera 4: 248

Macropiratis halieutica, n. sp.

♂. 29 mm. Head light fuscous, face oblique. Palpi fuscous, very long (4), cylindrical, somewhat thickened and slightly roughened above towards base, terminal joint short, obtuse. Antennal ciliations short. Thorax light fuscous mixed whitish. Forewings very elongate, very narrow at base, gradually dilated, costa moderately arched near apex, termen slightly rounded, oblique; 2 from ¾; fuscous; costal half whitish-ochreous from base to about ⅘, and neuration sharply marked by white lines along veins 2-8; some dark reddish-brown suffusion beyond this pale area, and on its lower edge in middle of disc; an oblique white streak from apex curved donwards towards tornus but becoming obsolete between veins 4 and 5; a white terminal line preceded by some darker suffusion: cilia brownish becoming whitish towards tops, and with a white bar at apex. Hindwings grey; cilia light grey.

FIJI, Lautoka, November (H. Phillips); 1 ex. (Brit. Mus.).

Meyrick, Edward (1932). Exotic Microlepidoptera 4: 249

Macropiratis heteromantis, n.sp.

♂. 30 mm. Differs from halieutica only as follows: face vertical; palpi moderate (1½), scales tolerably pointed, terminal joint concealed; antennal ciliations over 1; forewings 2 from ⅔, costal half light brownish-ochreous, dorsal half and terminal area dark fuscous, whitish neural lines and oblique white apical streak as in halieutica; hindwings rather dark grey.

CEYLON, Kalutara, July (F. Mackwood); 1 ex. The singular differences, especially in the shape of head and development of palpi, between these two superficially very similar insects are apparently natural, but further material for investigation is very desirable.

Meyrick, Edward (1932). Exotic Microlepidoptera 4: 249
Categories
Alucitidae Pterophoridae Species Lists

Phalaena Alucita Linnaeus, 1758

Binomial nomenclature for animals begins with the 10th edition of Linnaeus Systema Naturae. On page 343 of this volume, Linnaeus divided all Lepidoptera into three genera:

  • Papilio – Butterflies
  • Sphinx – Hawkmoths
  • Phalaena – All other moths

He further divided Phalaena into seven subgroups:

  • Phalaena Bombyx – Various bombycoid, noctuoid and cossid moths
  • Phalaena Noctua – Various noctuoid, cossid and hepialid moths
  • Phalaena Geometra – Mostly geometrid moths
  • Phalaena Tortrix – Mostly torticid moths
  • Phalaena Pyralis – Various pyraloid and noctuoid moths
  • Phalaena Tinea – Various smaller Lepidoptera
  • Phalaena Alucita – Six moths with divided wings

The subgroups listed above have been treated by modern taxonomy as seven genera: Bombyx, Noctua, Geometra, Tortrix, Pyralis, Tinea and Alucita. The boundaries and definitions of each of these genera have developed with further taxonomic research.

The species under Phalaena Alucita were presented as a series running from monodactyla, i.e. “one-fingered”, through to hexadactyla, i.e. “six-fingered”. Unfortunately, as with most other genera proposed in 1758, these six do not form a good clade. The first five fall within the modern Pterophoridae and last within the family currently known as Alucitidae. As these two families were separated, different taxonomists made different choices around which family should keep the name Alucita.

As a result, until well into the last century, different taxonomists used a mixture of the following names and typification schemes.

Current PterophoridaeCurrent Alucitidae
Alucitidae
Alucita
A. monodactyla
Orneodidae
Orneodes
O. hexadactyla
Pterophoridae
Pterophorus
P. pentadactyla 
(or P. monodactyla)
Orneodidae
Orneodes
O. hexadactyla
Pterophoridae
Pterophorus
P. pentadactyla 
(or P. monodactyla)
Alucitidae
Alucita
A. hexadactyla

In 1964, ICZN Opinion 703 settled on the final arrangement, but large numbers of Pterophoridae (particularly species in the tribe Pterophorini) were originally named in Alucita. More than 100 species in today’s Alucita were originally described in Orneodes.

Categories
Alucitidae Species Lists

Many-plume Moths

The many-plume moths (Lepidoptera: Alucitidae) are a small family of insects found on all continents. Most species can easily be recognised since each of their wings is completely divided into a number of fine feathery spines (typically six per wing).

Formerly, the Tineodidae or false plume moths were placed alongside Alucitidae in the superfamily Alucitoidea. However, recent research has shown that the many-plume moths (Heikkilä et al. 2015) fall within the false plume moths. As a result, these two groups are now considered a single family: Alucitidae Leach, 1815. No other groups are currently placed within Aluctoidea.

Although they share the characteristic of divided wings, the plume moths (Lepidoptera: Pterophoridae) evolved separately.

In 2003, Cees Gielis from Naturalis published a catalogue of described species in all these groups (Gielis 2003, Pterophoroidea & Alucitoidea (Lepidoptera) – In: World Catalogue of Insects 4). Cees maintained the digital version of this text, particularly for changes in species and names of Pterophoridae. In 2018, I helped to extract the names and synonymy for 1,463 Pterophoridae species from this document for inclusion within the Catalogue of Life.

Over the last few months, I’ve turned my attention to the section of the catalogue dealing with Alucitoidea, incorporating species described since 2003 and updating synonymy where applicable. Tineodidae are now treated as part of an expanded Alucitidae. In the absence of comprehensive analysis of phylogenetic relationships, there is no support for any organisation of the genera into subfamilies and tribes.

The updated catalogue contains 246 species in 20 genera.