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Food plant shifts drive the diversification of Sack-bearer moths

Cite this dataset

St Laurent, Ryan; dos Santos de Carvalho, Ana Paula; Earl, Chandra; Kawahara, Akito (2021). Food plant shifts drive the diversification of Sack-bearer moths [Dataset]. Dryad.


Lepidoptera are a highly diverse group of herbivorous insects, however some superfamilies have relatively few species. Two alternative hypotheses for drivers of Lepidoptera diversity are shifts in food plant use or shifts from concealed to external feeding as larvae. Many studies address the former hypothesis, but with bias towards externally feeding taxa. One of the most striking examples of species disparity between sister lineages in Lepidoptera is between the concealed feeding Sack-bearer Moths (Mimallonoidea), which contain about 300 species, and externally feeding Macroheterocera, which have over 74,000 species. We provide the first dated tree of Mimallonidae to understand the diversification dynamics of these moths in order to fill a knowledge gap pertaining to drivers of diversity within an important concealed feeding clade. We find that Mimallonidae is an ancient Lepidoptera lineage that originated in the Cretaceous ca. 105 million years ago and has had a close association with the plant order Myrtales for the past 40 million years. Diversification dynamics are tightly linked with food plant usage in this group. Reliance on Myrtales may have influenced diversification of Mimallonidae because clades that shifted away from the ancestral condition of feeding on Myrtales have the highest speciation rates in the family.


Molecular data reused from: St Laurent, R. A., C. G. C. Mielke, D. Herbin, K. M. Dexter, and A. Y. Kawahara. 2020. A new target capture phylogeny elucidates the systematics and evolution of wing coupling in sack-bearer moths. Systematic Entomology 45:653–669.

New analyses were conducted using the above dataset.

Usage notes

The README file explains the contents of this package in detail.


National Science Foundation, Award: DGE-1315138, DGE-1842473