Literature Review: Ermine Moth Origins

by Carl Strang

One set of journals I am able to follow continuously is published on-line by the Public Library of Science (PLoS). A paper in PLoS ONE attracted my attention this past year because it related to one of my own studies. Here’s the reference:

Turner H, Lieshout N, Van Ginkel WE, Menken SBJ (2010) Molecular Phylogeny of the Small Ermine Moth Genus Yponomeuta (Lepidoptera, Yponomeutidae) in the Palaearctic. PLoS ONE 5(3): e9933. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009933

Each year I follow the story of the trailing strawberry bush at Meacham Grove Forest Preserve (most recent chapter here). That plant’s main consumer historically at Meacham has been the ermine moth Yponomeuta multipunctella.

This paper by Turner and company gave me some context. They looked at all the members of genus Yponomeuta worldwide, and concluded that the genus first evolved in far eastern Asia, originally feeding on leaves of plants in family Celastraceae. As they diversified and expanded west they spread to other plant host families, but some reverted to Celastraceae (which includes Euonymus obovatus, the trailing strawberry bush).

It turns out that Y. multipunctella is the only North American moth in that genus. Science is about story, and connecting stories and giving them context is part of the satisfaction I draw from science.


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