Submitted to: Insect Biodiversity: Science and Society
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/19/2016
Publication Date: 9/12/2017
Citation: Goldstein, P.Z. 2017. Diversity and significance of Lepidoptera: A phylogenetic Perspective. Insect Biodiversity: Science and Society. 1(2):463-495.
Interpretive Summary: This chapter discusses the relevance of butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) to science and society, presents an updated summary of the classification and phylogenetic relationships among major groups of moths and butterflies, and outlines the needs and directions for future research. Lepidoptera are conspicuous animals that interact with human endeavors at multiple levels and represent major foci in multiple fields of scientific inquiry.
Technical Abstract: In this chapter, I first briefly outline the more conspicuous ways in which Lepidoptera intersect with human society via culture, agriculture, and natural resource conservation, and particularly the roles they play in the scientific study of evolutionary and ecological phenomena. Next, I review some of the current directions and challenges, epitomized in the study of Lepidoptera, to documenting and understanding species diversity. In the chapter’s remaining core, I review current understanding of how that species diversity is distributed across major lepidopteran groups and some of the more conspicuous biological innovations with which evolutionary bursts of diversification may have been associated; the various groups’ evolutionary highlights, so to speak, from within the context of their higher phylogenetic relationships as we understand them. Since lepidopteran classification remains in flux, I also highlight the more significant recent changes in that classification as they reflect advances in the reconstruction of lepidopteran phylogeny. Although the primary framework of this discussion is phylogenetic, I also stress the geographic distribution of lepidopteran species richness, and the research directions, challenges, and opportunities that a better understanding of that richness presents.