Submitted to: BioMed Central Biology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/10/2009
Publication Date: 12/2/2009
Citation: Mitter, C., Regier, J., Davis, D., Brown, J.W., Solis, M.A. 2009. Toward reconstructing the hyper-diverse radiation of ditrysian Lepidoptera (Insecta): initial evidence from 123 exemplars and 5 protein-coding nuclear genes. BioMed Central Biology. 9:280.
Interpretive Summary: The plant-feeding caterpillars of butterflies and moths cause billions of dollars of damage and loss annually to agricultural, ornamental, and forest plants. Relationships between the families composed of over 165,000 species is not well understood. This study is the first to use 5 molecular genes to resolve relationships among 55 families of butterflies and moths. The resulting tree of relationship shows broad concordance with a previous morphological hypothesis, although relationships among superfamilies are mostly weakly supported. The work will be of interest to scientists, ecologists, and pest managers.
Technical Abstract: In the mega-diverse insect order Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths; 165,000 species total), 98% of the species fall in the clade Ditrysia, relationships within which are little understood. As the first step in a long-term study of ditrysian phylogeny, we tested the ability of maximum likelihood analysis of five protein-coding nuclear genes (6.7kb) to resolve relationships among 123 exemplars representing 27 (of 33) superfamilies and 55 (of 100) families of Ditrysia. Our trees show broad concordance with a previous morphological hypothesis of ditrysian phylogeny, although relationships among superfamilies are mostly weakly supported. Strong resolution of deeper nodes, however, seems likely to require several-fold increase in both gene and taxon sampling, as well as close accounting for differential evolutionary behavior among sites, particularly those undergoing synonymous versus non-synonymous substitution.