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Parallel host range expansion in two unrelated cossid moths infesting Eucalyptus nitens on two continents


Bernard Slippers, Department of Genetics, University of Pretoria, Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI), Hatfield 0083, Pretoria, South Africa. E-mail:


1. Two cossid moths, Coryphodema tristis Drury and Chilecomadia valdiviana Philippi, have recently become pests on Eucalyptus nitens H. Deane & Maiden in South Africa and Chile, respectively. Both C. tristis and C. valdiviana have large host ranges and high levels of similarity in their host distributions. Their infestations of E. nitens are the first records of these moths on Myrtaceae.

2. The contemporaneous adoption of E. nitens as a novel host, despite widespread availability of native and introduced Myrtaceae, suggests a non-random pattern of invasion. Phylogenetic relatedness among the two species linked to cryptic invasion of one or both moths at some time in the recent past provides a possible explanation for this pattern.

3. To test this hypothesis, variation in mtDNA sequences for the COI gene of C. tristis and C. valdiviana were analyzed. The COI mtDNA sequence data showed that C. tristis and C. valdiviana are highly divergent genetically, indicating that both are native on their respective continents with independent evolutionary trajectories.

4. The parallel host range expansions to E. nitens on different continents appear to be unrelated events, likely driven by characteristics of the biology and/or ecology of the host.