• Open Access

A molecular phylogeny for the pyraloid moths (Lepidoptera: Pyraloidea) and its implications for higher-level classification


Charles Mitter, Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, U.S.A. E-mail: cmitter@umd.edu


Pyraloidea, one of the largest superfamilies of Lepidoptera, comprise more than 15 684 described species worldwide, including important pests, biological control agents and experimental models. Understanding of pyraloid phylogeny, the basis for a predictive classification, is currently provisional. We present the most detailed molecular estimate of relationships to date across the subfamilies of Pyraloidea, and assess its concordance with previous morphology-based hypotheses. We sequenced up to five nuclear genes, totalling 6633 bp, in each of 42 pyraloids spanning both families and 18 of the 21 subfamilies, plus up to 14 additional genes, for a total of 14 826 bp, in 21 of those pyraloids plus all 24 outgroups. Maximum likelihood analyses yield trees that, within Pyraloidea, differ little among datasets and character treatments and are strongly supported at all levels of divergence (83% of nodes with bootstrap ≥80%). Subfamily relationships within Pyralidae, all very strongly supported (>90% bootstrap), differ only slightly from a previous morphological analysis, and can be summarized as Galleriinae + Chrysauginae (Phycitinae (Pyralinae + Epipaschiinae)). The main remaining uncertainty involves Chrysauginae, of which the poorly studied Australian genera may constitute the basal elements of Galleriinae + Chrysauginae or even of Pyralidae. In Crambidae the molecular phylogeny is also strongly supported, but conflicts with most previous hypotheses. Among the newly proposed groupings are a ‘wet-habitat clade’ comprising Acentropinae + Schoenobiinae + Midilinae, and a provisional ‘mustard oil clade’ containing Glaphyriinae, Evergestinae and Noordinae, in which the majority of described larvae feed on Brassicales. Within this clade a previous synonymy of Dichogaminae with the Glaphyriinae is supported. Evergestinae syn. n. and Noordinae syn. n. are here newly synonymized with Glaphyriinae, which appear to be paraphyletic with respect to both. Pyraustinae and Spilomelinae as sampled here are each monophyletic but form a sister group pair. Wurthiinae n. syn., comprising the single genus Niphopyralis Hampson, which lives in ant nests, are closely related to, apparently subordinate within, and here newly synonymized with, Spilomelinae syn. n.