Sedge moth Glyphipteryx chrysoplanetis, photographed by Donald Hobern.

Belongs within: Ditrysia.
Contains: Yponomeutinae.

The Yponomeutoidea are a group of mostly small moths, the larvae of which bore in stems or leaves of plants. Ocelli are present in Plutellidae and Glyphipterygidae but absent in Argyresthiidae and Yponomeutidae. Glyphipterygidae have a pattern of light and dark bars on the labial palps and often shining metallic coloration (Nielsen & Common 1991).

Characters (from Nielsen & Common 1991): Very small to medium sized, ocelli present or absent; chaetosemata usually absent; scape sometimes with pecten; proboscis naked; maxillary palps small, 1-4-segmented; labial palps short, drooping or moderately ascending; epiphysis present; spurs 0-2-4, rarely 0-2-0; fore wing with M rarely retained in discal cell, chorda and pterostigma often present, R5 usually to termen, venation sometimes reduced; retinaculum in female sometimes a subcostal scale-tuft; hind tibiae usually smooth, abdomen sometimes with inconspicuous dorsal spining, S2 of tineid type and usually with transverse rim near anterior margin, male segment 8 with pleural lobes present and often with paired coremata. Larva with 3 (sometimes 2) prespiracular setae on prothorax, crochets in a uniordinal, uniserial to multiserial circle, occasionally in transverse band or absent; boring in stems, mining in leaves, feeding beneath a slight webbing, or in a more extensive webbing. Pupa without dorsal abdominal spines, or rarely with dorsal transverse ridges; in larval gallery or in fusiform or oval, silken, sometimes network cocoon or exposed, usually not protruded from cocoon or shelter at ecdysis.

Yponomeutoids and their boring larvae
Published 19 August 2013

…because some puns will never die.

Larvae of the bird-cherry ermine moth Yponomeuta evonymella, from here.

As noted elsewhere, most people’s perception of Lepidoptera, ‘butterflies and moths’, is heavily skewed towards the larger members of the group while the greater diversity is actually to be found among the smaller species (this sentence, offhand, could be repurposed for just about any animal group). The subject of today’s post, the Yponomeutoidea, are a clade of about 1800 species of the much-overlooked smaller Lepidoptera. Yponomeutoids have been recognised as a group primarily on the basis of a single synapomorphy, the presence of posterior lobes on the eighth abdominal pleura (a ‘pleuron’ being a sclerite on the side of the body wall). This character has been secondarily lost in some subgroups of the Yponomeutoidea, but the clade is also supported by molecular data (Sohn et al. 2013). The larvae of yponomeutoids are plant-feeders, with the clade including some species that feed internally as leaf-miners or stem-borers, and others that feed externally on leaves though they do conceal themselves within a silk webbing. A number of species are effectively both, starting out as internal leaf borers then changing to external leaf webbers as they grow larger. Some species are notable horticultural pests, such as the diamondback moth Plutella xylostella that attacks brassicas*.

*Horticulture is the only human endeavour in which you will hear something described as ‘attacking’ a cabbage.

Apple leaf miner Lyonetia clerkella, photographed by Jeff Higgott.

The most recent review of the clade’s systematics by Sohn et al. (2013) recognised eleven families within the Yponomeutoidea, but this was not the first re-organisation of the yponomeutoids and it will probably not be the last. Many of the families have few distinct synapomorphies, and a few recognised by Sohn et al. lack recognised morphological synapomorphies altogether and are united by molecular analysis only. Most yponomeutoids follow the usual microlepidopteran pattern of being small and generally brown, but there are some exceptions. The ‘mega-plutellids’ of New Zealand and Tasmania (placed by Sohn et al. in the family Glyphipterygidae rather than Plutellidae) are relatively large, with the Tasmanian Proditrix nielseni having a wingspan of over six centimetres (McQuillan 2003). The adult of the ailanthus webworm Atteva pustulella has a fairly striking array of black-ringed white patches on an orange background.

Galapagos bitterbush moth Atteva hysginiella, photographed by Rich Hoyer.

Though the clade is diverse in its habits overall, feeding habits tend to be conserved within each of the constituent families. It is not entirely clear whether internal or external feeding represents the original lifestyle of the yponomeutoids, though there may be a slight tip towards internal feeding. If this is the case, then external feeding has arisen within the yponomeutoids on a number of occasions, and the pine needle miners of the genus Zelleria in the family Yponomeutoidea probably represent at least one case of a internal feeder derived from externally feeding ancestors. Some families show a bias towards particular plant hosts: the Attevidae are primarily found on Simaroubaceae, while the Bedeliidae show a preference for Convolvulaceae. Others are more diverse in their selection.

Systematics of Yponomeutoidea
    |--Argyresthiidae [Argyresthiinae]NC91
    |    |--Argyresthia notoleucaNC91
    |    `--ArgyresthitesP92
    |    |--Diapyra ignifluaC70
    |    |--Paradoxecia pieli Lieu 1935H38
    |    `--Scoliomima insignaB28
    |--Plutellidae [Plutellinae]M03
    |    |--Dolichernis chloroleucaP27
    |    |--Protosynaemis eratopisP27
    |    |--ChrysorthenchesAY04
    |    |--ChrysoteuchesAY04
    |    |--Leuroperna seraNC91
    |    |--Epinomeuta truncatipennellaRJ93
    |    |--Acmosara Meyrick 1887M87
    |    |    `--*A. polyxena Meyrick 1887M87
    |    |--ProditrixM03
    |    |    |--P. nielseni McQuillan 2003M03
    |    |    `--P. tetragonaM03
    |    |--OrthenchesP27
    |    |    |--O. glyphtarchaL27
    |    |    `--O. similisP27
    |    `--Plutella Schrank 1802B07
    |         |--P. antiphonaL27
    |         |--P. maculipennisP27
    |         |--P. seraL27
    |         `--P. xylostellaGE05 [=Cerostoma xylostellaH04]
    |    |--HeliostibesM27
    |    |    |--H. electricaP27
    |    |    `--H. vibratrix Meyrick 1927M27
    |    |--SimaethisP27
    |    |    |--S. albifasciataP27
    |    |    |--S. analogaP27
    |    |    |--S. chionodesmaC70
    |    |    |--S. combinatanaP27
    |    |    |--S. nemoranaC90
    |    |    |--S. ophiosemaC70
    |    |    |--S. parianaC90
    |    |    `--S. taprobanes Z. 1877M86
    |    `--GlyphipterixNC91
    |         |--G. achlyoessaP27
    |         |--G. acronomaP27
    |         |--G. ataractaP27
    |         |--G. chrysoplanetisP27
    |         |--G. cometophoraP27
    |         |--G. condoniasL27
    |         |--G. gemmipunctellaNC91
    |         |--G. octonariaP27
    |         |--G. transversellaP27
    |         `--G. zelotaP27
         |  i. s.: Tonza purellaP27
         |         Urodus parvulaGE05
         |         EnaemiaM87
         |           |--E. caminaea Meyrick 1887M87
         |           |--E. erythractis Meyrick 1887M87
         |           `--E. pyrilampis Meyrick 1886M86
         |         MiezaM86
         |         Ceratophysetis Meyrick 1887M87
         |           `--*C. sphaerosticha Meyrick 1887M87
         |--AttevaGE05 [AttevinaeNC91]
         |    |--A. aureaKP19
         |    |--A. exquisitaMF68
         |    |--A. hysginiellaPP72
         |    |--A. niphocosmaNC91
         |    `--A. niveiguttella [=Corinea niveiguttella]WM66
         |--PraysYS10 [PraydinaeNC91]
         |    |--P. citriRC91
         |    |--P. nephelomimaNC91
         |    |--P. oleellusYS10
         |    `--P. parilisNC91

*Type species of generic name indicated


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[M86] Meyrick, E. 1886. On some Lepidoptera from the Fly River. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, series 2, 1 (2): 241–258.

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Sohn, J.-C., J. C. Regier, C. Mitter, D. Davis, J.-F. Landry, A. Zwick & M. P. Cummings. 2013. A molecular phylogeny for Yponomeutoidea (Insecta, Lepidoptera, Ditrysia) and its implications for classification, biogeography and the evolution of host plant use. PLoS One 8(1): e55066. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055066.

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