Monday, 28 June 2010

Featured insect: Aureopterix micans (Lepidoptera: Micropterigidae)

The moth fauna of the Pacific is still fairly unknown, with most of the work that's been done on the region's being rather old and with few recent revisions. An addition to the literature was recently published by George Gibbs in Zootaxa today on the Micropterigidae of Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. In it, he describes the species pictured:
Aureopterix micans from New Caledonia. This beautiful species is fairly widespread and common throughout New Caledonia at moderate altitudes.

As suggested by the name of the family, the Micropterigidae are part of the microlepidoptera---an informal name for a bunch of families that are small and tend to escape the notice of the public. They also tend to escape the notice of most specialists, and so their biology is not particularly well known. This is true for Aureopterix micans, however, the larvae for some of the other species described in the paper are known to feed on foliose liverworts. This is likely to be true of A. micans also.

It is believed that the distribution of the Micropterigidae may offer insights into the biogeography of the South Pacific region. The distribution of Auropterix offers a fairly standard interpretation of New Caledonian biogeography. While A. micans is restricted to New Caledonia; the only other species currently known in the genus, A. sterops, is found in northern Queensland, Australia. This East Coast Australia---New Caledonia connection is fairly typical of a lot of the fauna of the island. Other species of Micropterigidae however do not show this pattern, being closer to species in New Zealand than Australia. While Biogeography is full of interesting details such as these, going from hypotheses of pattern to process can be difficult to test, and will require greater research into the fauna of each area and underlying geology and ecology of the species involved.


No comments: