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Molecular Phylogeny of the Small Ermine Moth Genus Yponomeuta Lepidoptera, Yponomeutidae in the Palaearctic

Molecular Phylogeny of the Small Ermine Moth Genus Yponomeuta Lepidoptera, Yponomeutidae in the Palaearctic

PLoS ONE 5(3): e9933

The small ermine moth genus Yponomeuta (Lepidoptera, Yponomeutidae) contains 76 species that are specialist feeders on hosts from Celastraceae, Rosaceae, Salicaceae, and several other plant families. The genus is a model for studies in the evolution of phytophagous insects and their host-plant associations. Here, we reconstruct the phylogeny to provide a solid framework for these studies, and to obtain insight into the history of host-plant use and the biogeography of the genus. Methodology/Principal Findings: DNA sequences from an internal transcribed spacer region (ITS-1) and from the 16S rDNA (16S) and cytochrome oxidase (COII) mitochondrial genes were collected from 20-23 (depending on gene) species and two outgroup taxa to reconstruct the phylogeny of the Palaearctic members of this genus. Sequences were analysed using three different phylogenetic methods (parsimony, likelihood, and Bayesian inference). Conclusions/Significance: Roughly the same patterns are retrieved irrespective of the method used, and they are similar among the three genes. Monophyly is well supported for a clade consisting of the Japanese (but not the Dutch) population of Yponomeuta sedellus and Y. yanagawanus, a Y. kanaiellus-polystictus clade, and a Rosaceae-feeding, western Palaearctic clade (Y. cagnagellus-irrorellus clade). Within these clades, relationships are less well supported, and the patterns between the different gene trees are not so similar. The position of the remaining taxa is also variable among the gene trees and rather weakly supported. The phylogenetic information was used to elucidate patterns of biogeography and resource use. In the Palaearctic, the genus most likely originated in the Far East, feeding on Celastraceae, dispersing to the West concomitant with a shift to Rosaceae and further to Salicaceae. The association of Y. cagnagellus with Euonymus europaeus (Celastraceae), however, is a reversal. The only oligophagous species, Y. padellus, belongs to the derived western Palaearctic clade, evidence that specialisation is reversible.

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