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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Systematic Entomology Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #379169

Research Project: Systematics of Moths Significant to Biodiversity, Quarantine, and Control, with a Focus on Invasive Species

Location: Systematic Entomology Laboratory

Title: Classification of Tuta absoluta (Meyrick, 1917) (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae: Gelechiinae: Gnorimoschemini) based on cladistic analysis of morphology

item CORRO CHANG,, PATRICIA - Universidad De Panama
item Metz, Mark

Submitted to: Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/22/2020
Publication Date: 1/29/2021
Citation: Corro Chang, P., Metz, M. 2021. Classification of Tuta absoluta (Meyrick, 1917) (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae: Gelechiinae: Gnorimoschemini) based on cladistic analysis of morphology. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington. 123(1):41-54.

Interpretive Summary: The tomato pinworm moth (a.k.a, tomato leafminer, South American tomato moth, etc.) is one of the most notorious pests of tomatoes in the World. Despite its importance, the classification of this species has been unstable since it was first described in 1917 because moth specialists through time used subjective criteria to base their hypotheses. As a result, the best scientific name to use for the tomato pinworm is as unresolved and unclear as the possible common names for this pest. This research produced the first classification of the tomato pinworm based on quantitative, reproducible methodology, and provides a hypothesis for the pest’s closest relatives. This is important because it provides a stable scientific name for the tomato pinworm that will become accurate jargon across scientific and applied disciplines and provides a model for predicting other possible pests of crops related to tomato such as potato and eggplant. The results of this research will be useful to scientists in many disciplines, identifiers from federal and state agencies, applied agriculturalists, and growers across the World.

Technical Abstract: Tuta absoluta (Meyrick, 1917) is one of the most notorious pests of solanaceous plants in the World (Biondi et al. 2018), however, its supra-specific classification has been an historical point of contention. Its original genus, Phthorimaea Meyrick, 1902, was a catch-all within the family and the generic limits among its contained tribe, Gnorimoschemini Povolný, 1964, are unstable. This study represents the first attempt to classify T. absoluta among taxa of Gnorimoschemini using cladistic methodology. We constructed a tree hypothesis based on 22 morphological characters using the nominal taxa for the genera Phthorimaea, Scrobipalpuloides Povolný, 1987, and Tuta Kieffer and Jörgensen, 1910 among the ingroup; and the nominal taxon for the tribe Gnorimoschemini, Gnorimoschema gallaesolidaginis (Riley, 1869), as the outgroup. The parsimony analysis resulted in a single shortest tree with T. absoluta in a monophyletic clade that included Phthorimaea operculella (Zeller, 1873), the type species of Phthorimaea. The genera Tuta and Scrobipalpuloides were also resolved in the tree hypothesis. We propose the reinstated combination Phthorimaea absoluta Meyrick, 1917 and Phthorimaea chiquitella (Busck, 1910), new combination. The genera Tuta (with the single species Tuta atriplicella Kieffer and Jörgensen, 1910) and Scrobipalpuloides remain valid in Gnorimoschemini. We provide a history of the taxonomy of Tuta absoluta and a detailed character list and matrix used in our analysis.