Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

FNZ 14 - Lepidoptera - annotated catalogue and keys to family group taxa - Composition

Dugdale, JS 1988. Lepidoptera - annotated catalogue, and keys to family-group taxa. Fauna of New Zealand 14, 264 pages.
( ISSN 0111-5383 (print), ; no. 14. ISBN 0-477-02518-8 (print), ). Published 23 Sep 1988

Composition of Lepidoptera Fauna of New Zealand

Degree of endemism

Of the 1760 or so species recognised in this catalogue, 1582 (89.8%) are endemic. This high degree of endemism is also characteristic of the Hawaiian Islands, and is approached by Madagascar and St Helena.

Proportion of non-ditrysian groups

New Zealand has five of the eleven recognised nonditrysian superfamilies. Nielsen (1985a) has pointed out that about 98-99% of the known Lepidoptera fauna is in one structural group, the (endoporian) Ditrysia, characterised by having the common oviduct dorsal to the bursa copulatrix, and these joined by an internal ductus seminalis. The remaining 1%, or 'non-Ditrysia', are classed in several profoundly distinct divisions. These 'primitive' groups are well represented in South America and Australia (Nielsen 1985a), and at the species level in New Zealand form 5% of our total fauna.

One superfamily, the Mnesarchaeoidea, is endemic. Various features, including the porrect antennae, pseudofrenular hindwing structures, and porrect, scaled maxillary palpi, are distinctive within Exoporia.

A feature of New Zealand's non-ditrysian fauna is the lack of the superfamilies Agathiphagoidea (but host Agathis is present), Heterobathmioidea (but host Nothofagus is present), and Eriocranioidea (but one host family, Fagaceae, is present). Palaephatoidea are also absent, although present in Australia (Nielsen 1985). Heterobathmioidea, Tischeroidea, and Neopseustoidea are also absent from Australia, and in Incurvarioidea the sole New Zealand representative has characters of the Northern Hemisphere and southern South American family Prodoxidae (cf. Lampronia) rather than of the Heliozelidae, Adelidae, and Incurvariidae, which are present in Australia.

Ditrysia representation

New Zealand has 11 of the 28 ditrysian superfamilies recognised by Minet (1983) and Nielsen & Common (in prep.). Some major absences are Cossoidea, Zygaenoidea, Hesperioidea, Drepanoidea, and Bombycoidea; these account for a significant proportion of the lepidopteran fauna of North America (Hodges 1983) and Australia (Common 1970). Largely tropical superfamilies such as Immoidea, Alucitoidea, Hyblaeoidea, Calliduloidea, and Uranioidea are also absent, although other superfamilies are represented in New Zealand by largely tropical groups, e.g., in Thyridoidea, and Copromorphidae in Copromorphoidea. Vanicela in Tineoidea and Lopharcha in Tortricoidea are also tropical elements in the New Zealand fauna.

Poor representation of Papilionoidea (with no Papilionidae) is an enigmatic feature of the New Zealand fauna, and at the family level, in contrast to eastern Pacific island faunas, the very small number of species in Cosmopterigidae is particularly striking. Conversely, the eastern Pacific is weak in Oecophoridae, a family well represented in New Zealand, Australia, and New Caledonia.

As in Australia, the major superfamilies are Gelechioidea, Geometroidea, Pyraloidea, and Tortricoidea. In both countries, within Gelechioidea, the Oecophoridae overwhelmingly predominate.

New Zealand's Lepidoptera fauna is dominated by a few large genera: Tingena in Oecophoridae, with over 80 genitally distinct species; Orocrambus in Crambidae, with over 50; and the Eudonia - Scoparia complex, with over 100. Most of our Noctuidae are in one subfamily, Hadeninae, and three-quarters of our Geometridae are in Larentiinae (with at least 15% in one genus, Asaphodes). In Choreutidae and Glyphipterigidae all but one species each are in a single genus.

Presence in New Zealand of suitable host families or genera is no guarantee of the presence here of phytophagous Lepidoptera which are restricted to them elsewhere, as noted above. Moraceae genera support Copromorphidae here, as they do in Australia and Fiji, but we lack the choreutid genera Eutromula and Tortyra, and the danaine genus Euploea. Rubiaceae are well represented here, but we lack Sphingidae, which are a feature of the fauna on Pacific Rubiaceae.

'Microlepidoptera / macrolepidoptera' proportions

The artificial (but still practical) division into micros and macros shows some striking differences between faunas. Figures derived from this catalogue, Common (1970), Kloet & Hincks (1972), Karsholt & Nielsen (1976a), and Hodges (1983) indicate that in New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain, and Denmark respectively 'micros' form over 50% of lepidopterous faunas, contrasting curiously with North America, where 'micros' form only 34%. This apparent disparity should perhaps be viewed more as an artefact than a reflection of reality.

Fossil representation

Only one lepidopterous fossil has been reported, a pink scale embedded in Oligocene coal from Glen Afton (WO) (Evans 1931, p. 99). Tillyard (in Evans 1931) considered it to be lepidopterous, and noted that Sphingidae and Hepialidae have similar 'fishtail' wing-scales. Because of the pink colour, Tillyard favoured Porina (= Wiseana). Searches of fossil leaves for mines (Wilkinson, in prep.) have yielded at least one conclusive New Zealand leaf mine, and probably more.

Relationships with other biogeographic areas

New Zealand biogeography is undergoing critical study from a panbiogeographic viewpoint (Craw 1985). For Lepidoptera, a major survey of migrants across the Tasman (Fox 1978) showed that (a) over the past 100 years, the species composition of the migrant fauna in any one decade was invariable, and (b) all species were widely distributed, either in Australia or in the Old World Tropics. The inference must be that dispersal over sea has made a minor contribution to our fauna.

The Kermadec Lepidoptera show no solely New Zealand relationships; all species common to both are present in Australia, and most species are found extensively in the subtropical Pacific. Species presumed to be endemic to the Kermadecs belong to groups with no close New Zealand relationships (see Appendix, p. 235); but the question of endemicity is bound up with the state of interpretation of the relevant groups.

The two island groups in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand show contrasting degrees of New Zealand representation in Lepidoptera. Lord Howe Island (169°E, 32°S) is not known to have Lepidoptera with solely New Zealand relationships, whereas Norfolk Island (168°E, 29°S) has (Holloway 1977). Examples are in Geometridae (Pseudocoremia), Gelechiidae (Anisoplaca), and Momphidae (Zapyrastra calliphana, on Polygonaceae). The geometrid genus Austrocidaria is also present, as it is in eastern Australia. Neither island appears to support Nyctemera (Arctiidae). Other examples may be found as interpretation of microlepidoptera is refined.

As may be seen in Table 1 (p. 14), New Zealand shares with Australia about 6.1% of its Lepidoptera species, of which some 2.4% are assumed to be naturally shared, having been collected at the start of European exploration (e.g., Bassaris itea, collected during Cook's first voyage) or European settlement, and associated with an indigenous host (e.g., Strepsicrates ejectana, on Kunzea and Leptospermum). Around 64 species (3.7%) are known or presumed to be migrant from Australia, and half of these have become established, either on adventive plants common to both countries or on Australian endemic plants naturalised in New Zealand. Species shared with Australia are in Arctiidae, Noctuidae, Geometridae, Crambidae, Sphingidae, Nymphalidae, Lycaenidae, Tortricidae, Oecophoridae, Gelechiidae, and Cosmopterigidae (Table 1).

The Chatham Islands are unusual in the virtual absence of Oecophoridae; in Tortricidae, the preponderance of taxa related to Merophyas; and the relatively high degree of local endemism (about 30%).

Above the species level, with its very high degree of endemism, the degree of autochthony is related to the degree of interpretation of each group worldwide. Only for Micropterigoidea is interpretation well advanced (Gibbs 1983); close relationships are shown with New Caledonia, and with Australia, and our representation mirrors that of Japan. Gaskin (1986) has discussed possible roles of the inner and outer Melanesian Arcs in regard to Diptychophorini (Crambidae) in New Zealand. Initial studies on Geometridae indicate strong Australian relationships for some groups (Craw 1986) and strong South American relationships for others.

Although trans-Tasman species pairs are known in several families, only the Nyctemera annulata - N. amica pair has been adequately analysed (Kay 1980). Other candidate pairs are known in Tineidae, Yponomeutidae, Glyphipterigidae, Batrachedridae, Cosmopterigidae, Elachistidae, Momphidae, Oecophoridae, Geometridae, and Noctuidae, but in each family they are the exception rather than the rule.

In some instances (Tanaoctena in Yponomeutidae, Vanicela in Roeslerstammiidae, "Horisme" in Geometridae), relationships include the Pacific as well as Australia, and it is worth noting that two New Zealand Kessleria species (Yponomeutidae) have seemingly identical counterparts on New Caledonia. Povolny (1977) demonstrated the close relationship between Nepalese Empista and New Zealand Kiwaia (Gelechiidae), and the oriental Terricula has genital and external similarities with Ochetarcha (Tortricidae).

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