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Phylogeny of the cactus-feeding phycitines and their relatives (Lepidoptera, Pyralidae) based on adult morphology: Evaluation of adult character-systems in phycitine systematics and evidence for a single origin of Cactaceae-feeding larvae

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image of Insect Systematics & Evolution

The cactus-feeding Phycitinae are a New World group of moth genera that has long been the focus of ecological and biological control related studies, but the group's evolutionary and phylogenetic relationships have remained largely unknown. Here phylogenetic relationships of 15 cactus-associated and 12 allegedly related but non cactus-associated genera of Phycitinae are established based on 64 characters from adult morphology. The resulting phylogeny is the first cladistic higher-level phylogenetic analysis for any group of Phycitinae genera. It is well resolved, albeit weakly supported, and supports the monophyly of a previously suggested group comprised by the true cactus-feeders and the genera Baphala, Zophodia and Rhagea. A clade comprising all cactus feeders with the non-cactus feeder genus Rhagea nested within is retrieved, indicating a single origin of cactus feeding within Phycitinae; however, this clade is poorly supported. Larvae that are predacious on scale insects appear to have evolved at least twice. Evaluations of the different character systems in adult skeletal morphology demonstrate that although some systems contribute little to overall partitioned Bremer support, they might provide critical support at individual nodes. This is supporting earlier workers who suggested that as many characters as possible are needed to establish phylogenetic relationships within Phycitinae. The hitherto scarcely explored region of the pregenitalic abdomen promises to be of considerable importance in phycitine phylogenetics.


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