Publication of a book on the taxonomy of the 90 Australian genera of olethreutine moths (Tortricidae)

A project undertaken at CSIRO Entomology, Canberra, and supervised by Marianne Horak

The moth subfamily Olethreutinae (Tortricidae) contains numerous fruit and shoot borers of great economic importance, such as macadamia nut borer, oriental fruit moth and codling moth. The group is especially important in tropical horticulture where several native species have recently developed pest status in new fruit crops. Biological and/or integrated pest control is the desired option to deal with horticultural pests, but it presupposes taxonomic knowledge of the pest group and demands identification tools accessible to the applied entomologist.

The Australian olethreutine fauna is derived from Oriental and Papuan stock and, prior to the publication of this booke, there was no recent taxonomic revision of the group anywhere in the region. With the currently available literature, it was impossible to identify most of the 340 named Australian species even to genus without consulting the Australian National Insect Collection. Also, outdated classification did not reflect phylogeny and was biologically largely meaningless.

This project was the summary of 10 years of research, partly funded by CSIRO Entomology and several grants from the Australian Biological Resources Studies, and provided a long overdue text for taxonomists and applied workers on this economically important moth group. The book provides an up-to-date scientific treatment of the 90 Australian genera in a user-friendly and accessible form for the non-specialist, especially through copious photographic illustrations. It contains a key to genera, generic descriptions of all genera present in Australia, and illustrations of adults, heads, venation, genitalia of both sexes and other diagnostic structures of all genera. Summaries of biology and distribution and a checklist for all named Australian species are given for each genus. Based on the generic revisions the book includes a comprehensive reorganisation of olethreutine classification. The emphasis is on generic characterisation, so that newly found species can be correctly assigned, with the illustrations chosen so that very common and pest species are identifiable. Wherever possible, two species per genus have been illustrated to convey a generic concept. Great care has been taken with the photographic illustrations of adults, genitalia and other diagnostic characters so that they will be user-friendly for non-taxonomists.

The book was published in 2006 in the acclaimed series 'Monographs on Australian Lepidoptera', by CSIRO Publishing. It provides the latest knowledge about taxonomy, classification and phylogeny of the very diverse Australian fauna, which are crucial to an understanding of olethreutine evolution world wide. It delivers the required identification tools for pest control and quarantine purposes and provides a framework for ecological work with phytophagous insects. Nearly all olethreutine genera present in Australia extend into the Oriental region and beyond, so the book is relevant to horticultural pests throughout the Oriental region. Hopefully, the book will encourage some amateur lepidopterists in Australia to shift their attention to these smaller moths which still need so much study.

JO Westwood Medal Award

In 2008, at the XXIII International Congress of Entomology in Durban, the olethreutine volume received the inaugural J.O. Westwood Medal (https://www.royensoc.co.uk/jo-westwood-medal), a biennial prize established by the Royal Entomological Society and the Entomology Department of the Natural History Museum, London. To encourage large taxonomic studies, the J. O. Westwood medal is an award for ‘The best comprehensive taxonomic work on a group of insects, or, related arthropods (including terrestrial and freshwater hexapods, myriapods, arachnids and their relatives).’ The olethreutine volume received remarkable plaudits from the distinguished international selection panel:

  • ‘… a massive undertaking and meritorious achievement.’
  • ‘A monumental work… I would have no hesitation in recommending this work to students as a model of what a contemporary monograph should be: a high level of scholarship is evident throughout the work and the quality of every component of the monograph is absolutely exemplary.’
  • ‘If I were a young lepidopterist, I don’t think I could ask for a better platform from which to begin my investigations.’

 

Figure 1. Balbidomaga adult.

Figure 2. Loboschiza adult.

Figure 3. Oxysemaphora adult - final plate for the publication.

Figure 4. Collogenes - final plate for the publication.

Figure 5. The title page of the published book, together with the medal.

Figure 6. A photo taken by John LaSalle of the award ceremony with from left to right Professor Lin Field, President of the RES (Royal Entomological Society), Professor Michael Claridge, RES Editorial Officer, Marianne Horak, and Dr Malcolm Scoble, Keeper of Entomology, The Natural History Museum.