Molecular Systematics and Coevolution in Yucca Moths

Project: Research project

Project Details


9528072 PELLMYR Understanding the mechanisms that determine host utilization and specificity is central to the study of plant-animal interactions, diversification, and the process of coevolution. This project will explore the phylogenetic systematics of yucca moths in the genera Tegeticula Parategiticula and Prodoxus (Insecta: Lepidoptera: Prodoxidae), some of which are obligate pollinators of their host yucca plants, to test hypotheses about host specificity, reversal of mutualism, and patterns of species diversification among these moths. Phylogenetic hypotheses will be developed using morphometric and molecular tools. The latter entails mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequencing, and denaturing-gradient gel electrophoresis. The results will be used to test hypotheses of one-on-one host specificity between pollinators and their host plants, multiple reversals of pollination behavior, congruence of plant-insect phylogenies, constrained patterns of life history change, and host shifts as a path for defection in cooperation. Modern systematic revisions will also be compiled for all genera in these classical model groups for the study of interspecific interactions. The results will be a framework for one of the most important model systems of plant-insect interactions and will increase our understanding of host shifts in plant feeding insects. The results could have immediate application in agriculture and applied entomology by contributing to understanding how pest organisms respond and change over time in their interactions with plants.

Effective start/end date2/15/961/31/00


  • National Science Foundation: $162,925.00


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