Discovering a diamondback moth: Overlooked diversity in a global pest

Aug 29, 2013
This is a male of the new species, Plutella australiana. Size is 7 mm. Credit: Jean-François Landry

The tiny diamondback moth (scientific name: Plutella xylostella) gets its common name from the array of diamond shapes along the margin of its forewing. Despite their diminutive size, the caterpillars of the diamondback moth exert tremendous damage on many crops including cabbage, broccoli, and crucifers at large. More than $1 billion is spent globally each year in efforts to control damage by this moth, reflecting its amazing capacity to evolve resistance to both insecticides and biological control agents.

A global study of DNA barcodes by two Canadian entomologists revealed unexpected complexity: the occurrence of two among Australian diamondback moths. One of them is the well-known diamondback pest which is found nearly everywhere. The other is a new species, named Plutella australiana by Dr. Jean-François Landry of the Canadian National Collection in Ottawa and Dr. Paul Hebert of the University of Guelph, Ontario, the authors of the study. Their results have been published in the open access journal ZooKeys. The new species has so far been found only in Australia, where it occurs together with typical Plutella xylostella.

The new species was initially detected by Dr. Hebert in a general survey of Australian moths aimed at developing a library of DNA barcodes representing all the species of the fauna. Subsequent study of the anatomy revealed significant, previously unsuspected, differences in internal between typical diamondbacks and the new species.

DNA barcodes are short fragments of DNA used to identify organisms. They provide that complement traditional morphology/anatomy. DNA barcoding is increasingly used in applications to identify species, especially cryptic organisms.

This image illustrates the damage done by diamondback larvae to a canola plant. Credit: Andrea Brauner

This is a male Plutella xylostella, the typical diamondback moth. Size is 8 mm. Credit: Jean-François Landry

Although the new species of diamondback moth has now gained recognition and a name, key aspects of its biology remain uncertain. For example, what is its role as a in Australia and does it pose a threat to agriculture?

Explore further: Ants in space find it tougher going than those on Earth

More information: Landry J-F, Hebert PDN (2013) Plutella australiana (Lepidoptera, Plutellidae), an overlooked diamondback moth revealed by DNA barcodes. ZooKeys 327: 43–63. DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.327.5831

Related Stories

Diamondback moth host-parasite interaction unraveled

Sep 09, 2011

The diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella, is one of the world's most destructive crop pests. It has developed resistance to many chemical and biological pesticides, and the estimated global cost of controlling this insect ...

A new species of yellow slug moth from China

Jun 04, 2013

The moth genus Monema is represented by medium-sized yellowish species. The genus belongs to the Limacodidae family also known as the slug moths due to the distinct resemblance of their caterpillars to som ...

Recommended for you

Scientists discover new 'transformer frog' in Ecuador

13 hours ago

It doesn't turn into Prince Charming, but a new species of frog discovered in Ecuador has earned the nickname "transformer frog" for its ability to change its skin from spiny to smooth in five minutes.

US gives threatened status to northern long-eared bat

16 hours ago

The federal government said Wednesday that it is listing the northern long-eared bat as threatened, giving new protections to a species that has been nearly wiped out in some areas by the spread of a fungal ...

Mice sing like songbirds to woo mates

16 hours ago

Male mice sing surprisingly complex songs to seduce females, sort of like songbirds, according to a new Duke study appearing April 1 in the Frontiers of Behavioral Neuroscience.

A new crustacean species found in Galicia

17 hours ago

One reason that tourists are attracted to Galicia is for its food. The town of O Grove (Pontevedra) is well known for its Seafood Festival and the Spider Crab Festival. A group of researchers from the University ...

Ants in space find it tougher going than those on Earth

18 hours ago

(Phys.org)—The results of a study conducted to see how well ants carry out their search activities in space are in, and the team that sent them there has written and published the results in the journal ...

Rats found able to recognize pain in other rat faces

19 hours ago

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers working in Japan with affiliations to several institutions in that country, has found that lab rats are able to recognize pain in the faces of other rats and avoid them ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.