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Adaptive shifts underlie the divergence in wing morphology in bombycoid moths

Cite this dataset

Aiello, Brett et al. (2021). Adaptive shifts underlie the divergence in wing morphology in bombycoid moths [Dataset]. Dryad.


The evolution of flapping flight is linked to the prolific success of insects. Across Insecta, wing morphology diversified, strongly impacting aerodynamic performance. In the presence of ecological opportunity, discrete adaptive shifts and early bursts are two processes hypothesized to give rise to exceptional morphological diversification. Here, we use the diverse sister-families Sphingidae and Saturniidae to answer how the evolution of aerodynamically important traits is linked to clade divergence and through what process(es) these traits evolve. The agile Sphingidae evolved the hover-feeding behavior, while adult Saturniidae lack functional mouth parts and rely on a fixed energy budget. Although disparity was established early, we find that Sphingidae undergo an adaptative shift in wing morphology coincident with life history and behavior divergence, evolving small high aspect-ratio wings advantageous for power reduction that can be moved at high frequencies, beneficial for flight control. In contrast, Saturniidae, which do not feed as adults, evolved large wings and morphology which surprisingly does not reduce aerodynamic power, but could contribute to their erratic flight behavior, aiding in predator avoidance. We suggest that after the evolution of flapping flight, diversification of wing morphology can be potentiated by adaptative shifts, shaping the diversity of wing morphology across insects.


This data set includes several data types.

First, a phylogenetic tree of bombycoid moths inferred using a dataset of 606 loci of 57 species and one outgroup. Here we include the raw tree, the dated tree, and the locus recovery data.

Next, we included the outputs of digitized moth body and wing shapes that include data for the forewing, hindwing, and combined wing. These data are the raw data used in this paper. All digitized outputs are from images of museum specimens from the Florida Museum of Natural History. We also include these images as well.

Finally, we include the output from the analyis of the wing and body data which is the data on the functional metrics calculated for the wings and body of each species used in this study. These files are .csv files that begin with the title Table D and then include an extension in the file name to note if it is forewing (FW), hindwind (HW), combined wing (CW) or body (BODY).