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A hawkmoth crossroads? Species richness, seasonality and biogeographical affinities of Sphingidae in a Brazilian Cerrado


*Felipe W. Amorim, Programa de Pós Graduação em Ecologia e Conservação de Recursos Naturais, Instituto de Biologia, Universidade Federal de Uberlândia, Caixa Postal 593, Uberlândia, 38400 902 MG, Brazil. E-mail:


Aim  The aim of the study was (1) to describe the biodiversity of the sphingid assemblage in a Cerrado area in the Triângulo Mineiro region, south-east of Brazil; (2) to evaluate the seasonal variations in species composition; (3) to compare the faunistic relationships between the Cerrado biome and adjacent ecosystems; and (4) to analyse the biogeographical pattern of species distribution in the Neotropical region in a historical context.

Location  Panga Ecological Station (PES), 30 km south of the city of Uberlândia, and other areas of the Triângulo Mineiro region, Minas Gerais state, south-eastern Brazil.

Methods  Moth richness and abundance were monitored monthly at the PES from August 2003 to July 2004, with additional collections at this locality in 2001/2002, 2005 and 2006. Complementary moth richness and abundance data were also collected in other areas of the Triângulo Mineiro region. All collections were made using light traps, and the hawkmoths were mounted and identified. Cluster analysis, rarefaction curves and estimators of total species richness were used to compare the Cerrado hawkmoth assemblage with assemblages derived from other surveys in the Neotropics.

Results  In total, 61 hawkmoth species were recorded for the study region and their occurrence was markedly seasonal. The hawkmoth assemblage in the study area presented the closest similarity with rain forest areas and with a tropical dry forest area in Central America. The area shared species with both rain forest and seasonally dry tropical forest (SDTF) ecosystems, including supposedly endemic species previously recorded only in the latter areas. Rarefaction curves and estimators of the total number of species showed species richness to be comparable with other highly diverse forest areas in the Neotropics, such as the Brazilian Amazon and Costa Rica.

Main conclusions  This short-term study is the first systematic survey of hawkmoths in the Cerrado. It has recorded around 22% of the South American fauna and highlighted the high species richness of the region, which compares favourably with that in other rain forest ecosystems. The survey indicates high regional diversity, and has shown that the Cerrado harbours a hawkmoth fauna comprising both rain forest elements, probably distributed along humid gallery forest corridors, and SDTF elements, supporting the idea of a historical Pleistocene arc connecting the Caatinga domain and other seasonal dry forest areas across the Cerrado region.