Systematics and origin of moths in the subfamily Arctiinae (Lepidoptera, Erebidae) in the Neotropical region

Mauricio M. Zenker*, Niklas Wahlberg, Gunnar Brehm, José A. Teston, Lukasz Przybylowicz, Marcio R. Pie, André V.L. Freitas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


The availability of standard protocols to obtain DNA sequences has allowed the inference of phylogenetic Hypotheses for many taxa, including moths. We here have inferred a phylogeny using maximum-Likelihood and Bayesian approaches for a species-rich group of moths (Erebidae, Arctiinae), with strong emphasis on Neotropical genera collected in different field campaigns in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil, eastern Amazon and southern Ecuador. A total of 277 species belonging to 246 genera were included in the analysis. Our main objectives were to shed light on the relationships between suprageneric groups, especially subtribes, and hypothesize colonization events in and out of the Neotropics. The monophyly of Arctiinae and its four tribes (Lithosiini, Amerilini, Syntomini and Arctiini) was recovered in the ML and Bayesian trees. Three Lithosiini subtribes previously found and two additional species groups were recovered monophyletic in both phylogenetic estimation methods. In Arctiini, the monophyly of Spilosomina and Arctiina was highly supported in the ML and Bayesian trees, but the monophyly of Ctenuchina and Echromiina was weakly supported in the ML tree and absent in the Bayesian tree; the remaining subtribes were paraphyletic and, in the case of Phageopterina, formed several species groups. The mapping of species occurrence in our ML tree suggests that Arctiinae have an Old World origin and that the Neotropical region was colonized at least six times independently. Our analysis also suggests that a number of species that occur in Neotropical and other zoogeographic regions may have originated in the Neotropics, although further taxon sampling is required to support this hypothesis. To our knowledge, this is the first time that a highly speciose group of tropical moths is well covered in a phylogeny, and it seems plausible that the results reported here may be extendable to other species-rich tropical undersampled moth taxa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)348-362
Number of pages15
JournalZoologica Scripta
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


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