Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A new leaf miner: Mercantouria neli

Moths of the family Gracillariidae include several economic, horticultural or recently invasive pest species. They feed on a wide range of plants, which unfortunately also includes cultivated plants and crops. Females lay their eggs either on the leaf surface or in a hole they punctured into the leaf. The hatched caterpillar will start feeding on leaf tissue making a tunnel which is called 'mine'. 

In Europe about 160 species of this family are known but new species are discovered frequently and this time not only a new species but a new genus as it didn't fit into existing groups. The name of the new genus refers to the region of Mercantour National Park in France and the species was named after Dr. Jacques Nel who independently recognized and collected the new species.

For the experts: The Alps are a hotspot of biodiversity in Europe with many Lepidoptera species still to be discovered. Here we describe a new gracillariid genus and species, Mercantouria neli gen. n. and sp. n. The morphology of the male genitalia is highly differentiated with unique features. DNA barcodes show that its nearest neighbor is the North American species ‘Caloptilia’ scutellariella (Braun, 1923). M. neli is known from four adults (two males and two females) collected at two localities in the French Alps. Its host plant and life cycle remain unknown.

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