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Overview

Brief Summary

The owlets belong to a very large family of moths with more than 25,000 known species. They are stoutly built. The front wings are often somber while the hind wings are sometimes very brightly colored. When resting, owlets fold their wings as a roof above their body or flatten them, overlapping one another. You see a silver-y in the picture above, named after the silvery-colored y-shaped marking on its wings. Silver-y moths are also active during the day. Owlet caterpillars are usually plump and have few hairs.
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Diversity

Diversity description:

This family is comprised of more than 35,000 species (Kitching and Rawlins 1998).

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Comprehensive Description

Noctuidae (Owlet Moths, Underwing Moths)
This is a large family of small- to medium-sized hairy moths. They often have gray, brown, or yellow-tan patterns on their wings, but sometimes have patches of white, green, or pink. Sometimes the hindwings are lighter-colored than the forewings. The Underwing Moths, however, tend to be larger, and have showy hindwings with patterns of yellow/orange and black. Male moths in the Noctuid family have plume-like antennae to detect pheromones from females. Noctuid moths also have the capacity to detect sonar from bats, which helps to reduce losses from predation. The caterpillars of Noctuid moths feed on a wide variety of plants, including even dead leaves, fungi, and lichens. They are sometimes serious pests on agricultural crops and forest trees. Larval hairs are not used in the construction of cocoons, unlike moths from some other families.

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Distribution

Geographical Distribution

Geographic Range:

Nearctic, Palearctic, Oriental, Ethiopian, Neotropical, Australian, Oceanic Island

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Physical Description

Diagnostic Description

Synapomorphies

Apomorphies:

Spinneret is a tubular structure.  Males with abdominal scent brushes on A1.  Bullae fused.  Scaphium membranous.  Plural sclerite between the tegumen and vinculum.  Larvae with two SV setae on A1.  Muscle present between tegumen and transtilla.  Juxta typically surrounded a membranous diaphragm.  Posterior apophysis expanded into a pre-apical rectangular or diamond-shape plate

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Ecology

Associations

Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
larva of Cyrtophleba ruricola is endoparasitoid of larva of Noctuidae

Animal / predator
larva of Dasysyrphus tricinctus is predator of larva of Noctuidae

Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
larva of Eumea linearicornis is endoparasitoid of larva of Noctuidae

Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
larva of Eurysthaea scutellaris is endoparasitoid of larva of Noctuidae

Plant / pollenated
adult of Noctuidae pollenates or fertilises flower of Platanthera chlorantha
Other: major host/prey

Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
larva of Oswaldia muscaria is endoparasitoid of larva of Noctuidae

Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
larva of Phorocera assimilis is endoparasitoid of larva of Noctuidae

Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
larva of Phorocera obscura is endoparasitoid of larva of Noctuidae

Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
larva of Ramonda prunaria is endoparasitoid of larva of Noctuidae

Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
larva of Ramonda spathulata is endoparasitoid of larva of Noctuidae

Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
larva of Siphona collini is endoparasitoid of larva of Noctuidae

Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
larva of Tachina fera is endoparasitoid of larva of Noctuidae

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Known predators

Noctuidae (noctuid lepidopterans) is prey of:
Bartramia longicauda
Sturnella neglecta
Pooecetes gramineus
Spizella passerina
Spizella pallida
Eremophila alpestris
CoRana pipiens

Based on studies in:
Canada: Manitoba (Grassland)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • R. D. Bird, Biotic communities of the Aspen Parkland of central Canada, Ecology, 11:356-442, from p. 410 (1930).
  • R. D. Bird, Biotic communities of the Aspen Parkland of central Canada, Ecology, 11:356-442, from p. 383 (1930).
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Known prey organisms

Noctuidae (noctuid lepidopterans) preys on:
Helianthus
Agropyron
Stipa
Agrostis
Mammalia

Based on studies in:
Canada: Manitoba (Grassland)
Costa Rica (Carrion substrate)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • R. D. Bird, Biotic communities of the Aspen Parkland of central Canada, Ecology, 11:356-442, from p. 410 (1930).
  • R. D. Bird, Biotic communities of the Aspen Parkland of central Canada, Ecology, 11:356-442, from p. 383 (1930).
  • L. F. Jiron and V. M. Cartin, 1981. Insect succession in the decomposition of a mammal in Costa Rica. J. New York Entomol. Soc. 89:158-165, from p. 163.
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Evolution and Systematics

Evolution

Systematic and taxonomic history

Systematic and taxonomic history:

Most noctuid subfamilies erected by Hampson (1903- 1913) are now recognized as unnatural (Beck 1960, 1991, 1992; Kitching 1984; Lafontaine and Poole 1991; Speidel and Naumann 1996; Kitching and Rawlins 1998; Fibiger and Lafontaine 2005; Mitchell et al. 2006). Indeed, the composition and monophyly of most is still open to question, as is their number. The monophyly of the immature stages, as well as the adults, is astonishingly poorly known and such information will be critical to a defensible noctuid phylogeny (Kitching and Rawlins 1998). Yela and Kitching (1999) studied Noctuidae phylogeny based on morphological characterisation at the family level. They adequately cited the most prominent sentences of other authors concerning the noctuid phylogeny difficulties. For instance, one of the most intractable problems in Lepidoptera classification has been the phylogeny of the quadrifid lineages of Noctuoidea; the family has been notoriously difficult to characterise (both from Kitching and Rawlins 1998). Kitching (1984), in the publication that represents the inflexion point towards a cladistic approach to studies on noctuid phylogeny, picked up similar sentences that have been repeatedly cited here. For example, “It is exceptional to find any two authors who use the same combination of subfamily names within the Noctuidae” (Nye 1975); “The classification [of the family Noctuidae] rests in a state of great confusion, and few authors appear to hold similar views regarding the suprageneric taxonomy”. “I have concluded after spending much time (perhaps I should say wasting time) on the problem, that it is impossible to present ...a correct suprageneric classification” (Zimmerman 1958). Moreover, Poole (1995) added: ... “the family is so large and the interpretation of characters so difficult that no one has tried to construct a natural classification reflecting the phylogeny of the family”. Finally, Speidel et al. (1996) stated that ... “our understanding of the phylogenetic affinities of the Noctuidae to other noctuoid families, as well as interrelations among the various noctuid subfamilies, is still in its infancy”. “Thus, it can be easily understood that a review is not a simple task” (Yela and Kitching 1999).  Furthermore, it should be noted that the current systematics position of the Noctuidae which is too much Holarctic-oriented, that is mostly due to the vastity of the group it is. Unfortunately, very little information is available on the Neotropical noctuids (in particular quadrifines) because also the basic taxonomy is unclear. There are genera with tens of described species and one will not ever find even a single illustration of a sample species in order to start with. This point of view had been acknowledged by Fibiger and Lafontaine (2005) in which a full study of the fauna from the southern hemisphere will undoubtedly result in new higher taxa being added and inserted into their proposed classification system.  Kitching (1984) published an historical review of noctuid subfamilies relationships. His synopsis showed that the higher classification of the Noctuidae at that time was based on superficial resemblance and vaguely defined characters, rather than on the rigorous application of cladistic principles. In an attempt to progress beyond the age of traditional noctuid taxonomy, Speidel et al. (1996) undertook an explicit cladistic study based on morphological characters, such as hood structures of the A1 pleuron, the alula, the membraneous conjunctiva, the tympanal bar, the tympanum, male genitalia and their associated muscles, the abdominal brush-organ, spur length and the ventral cervical gland in the larva. Kitching and Rawlins (1998) used of character systems from both adults and immature stages for the first time in presenting the most thoroughly defended and comprehensive reclassification of the superfamily since Hampson´s (1898-1913) world catalogue (Fibiger and Lafontaine 2005). Although Poole´s classification was limited to the trifine Noctuidae (= Noctuidae s.s. of Fibiger and Lafontaine 2005), it has provided a basis for discussion of trifine noctuid classification (Lafontaine and Fibiger 2006). The classification of Beck (1999-2000) split the Noctuidae into a large number of subfamilies. The classification, based almost exclusively on larval characters, included a very large number of family-group names, of which 68 were proposed by Beck either in this work or in a previous checklist (Beck 1996). These family-group names were diagnosed but not defined in a hierarchical classification on the basis of derived character states (Lafontaine and Fibiger 2006). The classification of Mitchell et al. (2006) is the latest of three studies of the Noctuoidea based on nuclear genes (i.e., Mitchell et al. 1997, 2000), but the 2006 study included twice as many taxa (146 species), with an emphasis on trifines, so the authors gave a more definitive interpretation of the results in terms of proposing changes in classification than they had in the two previous studies. Fibiger and Lafontaine (2005) presented a comprehensive contribution to a consensus classification between Eurasia and North Americain in order to synthesise their results with earlier morphological data and current molecular data (Mitchell´s molecular studying) to help alleviate the current state of confusion. They generally followed Kitching and Rawlins´s proposed system but some fundamental changes had been proposed (will be discussed in detail later). It is sufficient to recount the following changes were interlinked with the quadrifine´s fate: 1- placing the arctiid group of families (Nolidae, Arctiidae, and Lymantriidae) in front of the upgraded family Erebidae so that their close relationship with the quadrifines is better reflected; 2- removing the Lymantriidae from a position in front of the Nolidae to a position after the Arctiidae to reflect the close association of the arctiids and lymantriids following Mitchell et al. (1997, 2000); 3- treating the quadrifine subfamilies (Herminiinae, Hypenodinae, HypeninaeCatocalinae, Calpinae, Hypeninae, Stictopterinae, and Euteliinae) as subfamilies of the reestablished family Erebidae and as the sister group to the arctiid families and reinstate the subfamily Rivulinae following Fibiger and Hacker (1991), Speidel et al. (1996), and Beck (1999-2000), the subfamilies Boletobiinae and Phytometrinae following Beck (1999-2000), and the subfamilies Scolecocampinae and Erebinae on the basis of data were presented by them; the Hypenodinae was reinstated for Hypenodes Doubleday and its relatives, and the name Strepsimaninae was treated as the family Strepsimanidae; 4- revising the classification of the subfamilies Catocalinae, Calpinae, and Erebinae as moving the Armadini and Aediini from the Catocalinae to the Acontiinae, and moving the Tytini from the Catocalinae into the subfamily Metoponiinae of the Noctuidae; 5- acoording to Fibiger and Hacker (2002, 2004) removing the tribe Eublemmini from the Eustrotiinae and treat it as a primitive subfamily of the Erebidae; 6- Araeopteroninae Fibiger was proposed as a new subfamily of the Erebidae.  One year later, the authors reviewed the higher classification of the superfamily on the basis of recent morphological and molecular studies once again, and proposed a more inclusive definition of the family Noctuidae that adds the subfamilies NolinaeStrepsimaninae, Arctiinae, Lymantriinae, and Erebinae to the subfamilies more traditionally included in the Noctuidae. This text was provided by Reza Zahiri

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Fossil Record

Fossil record:

A couple of genera of Holarctic fossils have been proposed: Noctuites and Phylledestes. An egg from the Cretaceous has been attributed to Noctuidae (Gall and Tiffney 1983), but the determination is not based on a diagnostic apomorphy for noctuoid eggs and remains dubious (Kitching and Rawlins 1998). Although, very recent unpublished investigation has revealed that the ancient of some groups of Rhopalocera refered to 95 Mya, in which is more or less coincide with the major angiosperm radiation. Regarding to this logic that the early Noctuoidea might be more ancient than paleo-butterflies, it is possible to suppose the ancient of noctuoids should be radiated before 95 Mya.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records: 97833
Specimens with Sequences: 92774
Specimens with Barcodes: 89095
Species: 8105
Species With Barcodes: 7713
Public Records: 39776
Public Species: 3696
Public BINs: 3991
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Barcode data

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Wikipedia

Noctuidae

Noctuidae!<-- This template has to be "warmed up" before it can be used, for some reason -->

Unikonta

The Noctuidae or owlet moths are a family of robustly-built moths that includes more than 35,000 known species out of possibly 100,000 total, in more than 4,200 genera. They constitute the largest family in the Lepidoptera.

Their distribution is worldwide with about 1,450 species found in Europe.[1][2][3]

Most have drab forewings, although some have brightly coloured hindwings. There are usually few differences between the sexes. The overwhelming majority of noctuids fly at night and are almost invariably strongly attracted to light. Many are also attracted to sugar and nectar-rich flowers.

Some of the family are preyed upon by bats. However, many Noctuidae species have tiny organs in their ears which responds to bat echolocation calls, sending their wing muscles into spasm and causing the moths to dart erratically. This aids the moths in evading the bats.

Several species have larvae (caterpillars) that live in the soil and are agricultural or horticultural pests. These are the "cutworms" that eat the bases of young brassicas and lettuces. They form hard, shiny pupae. Most noctuid larvae feed at night, resting in the soil or in a crevice in its food plant during the day.

The Noctuidae are also remarkable for containing an extraordinary number of species whose caterpillars are able to feed on certain poisonous plants without harm. These foodplants — namely Solanaceae (e.g., Nicotiana) and Fabaceae (e.g., Sophora) — contain chemicals that would kill most insects trying to feed on them.

Contents

Systematics

Division into subfamilies, and the number of subfamilies is unsatisfactory and varies somewhat in various taxonomical systems. Several moth genera are not yet robustly assigned to subfamilies:

Recent molecular studies,[4][5] however, have shown that the family Noctuidae is paraphyletic. The subfamily Plusiinae should be raised to family status. The Noctuidae sensu stricto should be confined to trifines. The quadrifid noctuid subfamilies are paraphyletic (or perhaps polyphyletic) and should be grouped in a clade with the Arctiidae and Lymantriidae. The terms trifid and quadrifid refer to the number of veins from the lower part of the hindwing midcell.

See list of noctuid genera.

Example species

Acronictinae

Amphipyrinae

Cuculliinae

Hadeninae

Heliothinae

Noctuinae

Plusiinae

Additional examples:

References

  1. ^ Fibiger, M., 1990. Noctuinae 1. - Noctuidae Europaeae 1, Sorø, Denmark
  2. ^ Fibiger, M., 1993. Noctuinae 2. - Noctuidae Europaeae 2, Sorø, Denmark
  3. ^ Fibiger, M., 1997. Noctuinae 3. - Noctuidae Europaeae 3, Sorø, Denmark.
  4. ^ Weller, S. J., Pashley, D. P., Martin, J. A., and Constable, J. L. (1994). "Phylogeny of noctuoid moths and the utility of combining independent nuclear and mitochondrial genes". Systematic Biology (Systematic Biology, Vol. 43, No. 2) 43 (43): 194–211. doi:10.2307/2413461. http://jstor.org/stable/2413461. 
  5. ^ Andrew Mitchell, Charles Mitter, Jerome C. Regier (2006). "Systematics and evolution of the cutworm moths (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae): evidence from two protein-coding nuclear genes". Systematic Entomology 1 (31): 21–46.  abstract online
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