Research Summary: Comprehensive Molecular Sampling Yields a Robust Phylogeny for Geometrid Moths (Lepidoptera: Geometridae)



The moth family Geometridae (inchworms or loopers), with approximately 23 000 described species, is the second most diverse family of the Lepidoptera. Apart from a few recent attempts based on morphology and molecular studies, the phylogeny of these moths has remained largely uninvestigated.

Methodology/Principal Findings

We performed a rigorous and extensive molecular analysis of eight genes to examine the geometrid affinities in a global context, including a search for its potential sister-taxa. Our maximum likelihood analyses included 164 taxa distributed worldwide, of which 150 belong to the Geometridae. The selected taxa represent all previously recognized subfamilies and nearly 90% of recognized tribes, and originate from all over world. We found the Geometridae to be monophyletic with the Sematuridae+Epicopeiidae clade potentially being its sister-taxon. We found all previously recognized subfamilies to be monophyletic, with a few taxa misplaced, except the Oenochrominae+Desmobathrinae complex that is a polyphyletic assemblage of taxa and the Orthostixinae, which was positioned within the Ennominae. The Sterrhinae and Larentiinae were found to be sister to the remaining taxa, followed by Archiearinae, the polyphyletic assemblage of Oenochrominae+Desmobathrinae moths, Geometrinae and Ennominae.


Our study provides the first comprehensive phylogeny of the Geometridae in a global context. Our results generally agree with the other, more restricted studies, suggesting that the general phylogenetic patterns of the Geometridae are now well-established. Generally the subfamilies, many tribes, and assemblages of tribes were well supported but their interrelationships were often weakly supported by our data. The Eumeleini were particularly difficult to place in the current system, and several tribes were found to be para- or polyphyletic.


Publisher: Public Library of Science

Date Published: 1-June-2011

Author(s): Sihvonen P., Mutanen M., Kaila L., Brehm G., Hausmann A., Staude H.


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