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Tiny minotaurs and mini-Casanovas: Ancient pigmy moths reveal secrets of their diversity
Date:3/18/2013

Researchers Robert Hoare (Landcare Research, New Zealand) and Erik van Nieukerken (Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Netherlands) have named new moths after the Minotaur of Greek mythology and the legendary Italian philanderer Giacomo Casanova in a study of the evolution of southern pigmy moths. The study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

The tiny moths, with wingspans of 3 to 8 millimetres, belong to a very old group (the family Nepticulidae), which dates back more than 110 million years to the time of the dinosaurs. Australian pigmy moths are particularly diverse and unusual, and one group (genus Pectinivalva, 'ancient pigmy moths') has until now only been reported from that continent, where over 140 species are known.

Each species of pigmy moth is associated with one or a few related species of plant on which they lay their eggs. Caterpillars make a mine inside the leaf, the shape of the mine often being characteristic of the species that made it.

By reconstructing the evolution of the ancient pigmy moths, Hoare and van Nieukerken have shown that the original host of the group was probably a rainforest plant of the myrtle family (Myrtaceae). As Australia dried out from about 15 million years ago, the rainforest was greatly reduced in extent, and the myrtle family came to dominate the vegetation of the arid interior, with the now familiar eucalyptus trees becoming especially diverse and abundant. The ancient pigmy moths in their turn transferred to the newly dominant host-plants, and now most known species of '/>"/>

Contact: Dr. Robert Hoare
hoarer@landcareresearch.co.nz
Pensoft Publishers
Source:Eurekalert  

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