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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Systematic Entomology Laboratory » Research » Research Project #439362

Research Project: Systematics of Hyper-Diverse Moth Superfamilies, with an Emphasis on Agricultural Pests, Invasive Species, Biological Control Agents, and Food Security

Location: Systematic Entomology Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-22000-314-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Nov 2, 2020
End Date: Dec 13, 2021

Objective 1: Conduct integrative taxonomic research on adult and immature moths that incorporate morphological and molecular data to describe species and inform their phylogeny and classification. [NP304, C1, PS1A; C2, PS2B and 2C; C3, PS3A and 3B; C4 PS4A and 4B] Subobjective 1.1: Conduct integrative taxonomic research of spilomeline genera (Pyraloidea or snout moths). Subobjective 1.2: Conduct integrative taxonomic research of gelechiine genera (Gelechioidea: Gelechiidae or twirler moths). Subobjective 1.3: Conduct integrative taxonomic research of select noctuid genera with a focus on those bearing on the origins of grass-, fern-, and fruit-feeding Noctuoidea. Objective 2: Manage and enhance through fieldwork major segments of the U.S. National Insect Collection to be used for morphological and molecular research by U.S. scientists and stakeholders worldwide; mine the associated distributional and biological data for comprehensive databases, and provide rapid authoritative identifications, especially of potentially threatening insect pests. [NP304, C1, PS1A; C2, PS2B and 2C; C3, PS3A and 3B; C4 PS4A and 4B] Objective 3: Provide expert/authoritative identifications for early detection of potentially invasive or novel pests intercepted by APHIS or Department of Homeland Security personnel at U.S. ports, and generate research associated with specimens submitted by ARS researchers for biological control research with U.S. state departments of agriculture and U.S. university scientists. [NP304, C1, PS1A; C2, PS2B; C3, PS3A and 3B; C4 PS4A and 4B]

Moth taxa from the Western Hemisphere were selected to fill a knowledge gap about phylogeny, taxonomy, and natural history and selected based on availability of material, the need for revisionary work, and/or relevance to American agriculture or natural resources. The following are the focus of research: in the Pyraloidea (Subobjective 1.1) Ategumia, Desmia, Diaphania, Eulepte, Herpetogramma, Omiodes, Patania; in the Gelechioidea (Subobjective 1.2) genera within and putatively near the Recurvaria-group (Gelechiinae: Litini); in the Noctuoidea (Subobjective 1.3) fern-feeding Argyrosticta in relation to Callopistria, boundaries and composition of the Eriopinae, and erebid litter moths (Herminiinae). Material for comparative study of molecular, morphological, and ecological variation will be mainly from the National Museum of Natural History collection and specimens with primary life history data and CO1 DNA barcodes from the Area de Conservacíon de Guanacaste Costa Rican project. Additional material will be sought from other insect collections, such as the Canadian National Collection (Ontario), The Natural History Museum (London), the Museum national d’histoire Naturelle (Paris), and the Museum für Naturkunde (Berlin). Type specimens of each species, including the type species for each genus, will be examined. Fieldwork for newly collected samples is planned for the United States or countries in the Western Hemisphere. Selected larvae of interest will be reared to adult and larval feeding behaviors documented. Taxon sampling will include ten specimens with multiple males and females per species, or as much as is available, and examined to acquire morphological character data with various stereomicroscopes, compound microscopes, scanning electron microscope, and/or a laser scanner. Digital images will be captured using a Visionary Digital BK imaging station to illustrate morphological features. In Gelechioidea, genitalia will be modeled in 3D using Blender to illustrate the highly complex structures. Various types of characters (i.e., integrative taxonomy), such as morphology, biology, geospatial, chronological, and molecular data for phylogenetic analyses will accompany revisionary papers as tests of monophyly and other evolutionary hypotheses, and as summaries of relevant character state distributions and character state changes. Molecular data, specifically CO1 DNA barcodes obtained via Sanger sequencing, will be used to (1) complement ecological and morphological data in the resolution of species-level problems for which morphology is ambiguous or inadequate, and (2) associate the sexes of sexually dimorphic species and associate larvae with adults. Next generation sequencing or a range of nuclear loci for Sanger sequencing will be used for higher level phylogenetic questions. In each of the noctuid groups, the phylogenetic structure developed in this work will be used to map foodplant and diet breadth data to test hypotheses about the number of origins of feeding syndromes (e.g., grass- and fern- feeding). Phylogenetic programs, such as the Tree analysis using New Technology (TNT), will be used to analyze the data.