Overview

Brief Summary

Introduction

Introduction:

Tegeticula is one of the two genera of true yucca moths, which offer one of the classical cases of coevolved obligate mutualism between species. Females use unique tentacles on their maxillary palps to actively collect and compact pollen from the flowers of their yucca hosts. Yucca pollen is very sticky, and it adheres (without aid of the tentacles) to the underside of her head. Once loaded, the female oviposits into yucca flowers, walking up to floral stigmas after oviposition and actively pollinating the flower with a small portion of her pollen batch. In so doing, she assures that lack of pollination will not cause the flower to abort. This is critical, because her progeny feed only on developing seeds. The larvae only feed on a modest proportion of the seeds, thus making it possible for this herbivore to actually be of net benefit to its host. Over evolutionary time, yucca moths and yuccas have evolved complete mutual dependence on each other (Riley 1892, Pellmyr et al 1996b).

  A considerable body of literature has accumulated on ecological and evolutionary aspects of the yucca-yucca moth interaction; a comprehensive reference list for the early literature is provided in Davis (1967), and much of the subsequent work is referenced in Powell (1992) and Pellmyr et al (1996). Recent empirical work has focused on the stability of obligate mutualism (Pellmyr and Huth 1994, Richter and Weis 1995), reversal of mutualism (Pellmyr et al 1996a), and moth behavioral plasticity in pollination and egg dispersal decisions (Addicott and Tyre 1995).

Recently the species traditionally called T. yuccasella has been identified as being a complex of at least 13 species, many of which have very distinctive biology. Among them are two non-pollinating species of 'cheater yucca moths'. The reader should bear in mind that many papers written before the recent revision that provide, e.g., measures of seed consumption, actually provide composite measurements of all coexisting species. This problem only applies to the yuccasella complex ("the white species").

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Introduction

Tegeticula is one of the two genera of true yucca moths, which offer one of the classical cases of coevolved obligate mutualism between species. Females use unique tentacles on their maxillary palps to actively collect and compact pollen from the flowers of their yucca hosts. Yucca pollen is very sticky, and it adheres (without aid of the tentacles) to the underside of her head. Once loaded, the female oviposits into yucca flowers, walking up to floral stigmas after oviposition and actively pollinating the flower with a small portion of her pollen batch. In so doing, she assures that lack of pollination will not cause the flower to abort. This is critical, because her progeny feed only on developing seeds. The larvae only feed on a modest proportion of the seeds, thus making it possible for this herbivore to actually be of net benefit to its host. Over evolutionary time, yucca moths and yuccas have evolved complete mutual dependence on each other (Riley 1892, Pellmyr et al 1996b).

A considerable body of literature has accumulated on ecological and evolutionary aspects of the yucca-yucca moth interaction; a comprehensive reference list for the early literature is provided in Davis (1967), and much of the subsequent work is referenced in Powell (1992) and Pellmyr et al (1996). Recent empirical work has focused on the stability of obligate mutualism (Pellmyr and Huth 1994, Richter and Weis 1995), reversal of mutualism (Pellmyr et al 1996a), and moth behavioral plasticity in pollination and egg dispersal decisions (Addicott and Tyre 1995).

Recently the species traditionally called T. yuccasella has been identified as being a complex of at least 13 species, many of which have very distinctive biology. Among them are two non-pollinating species of 'cheater yucca moths'. The reader should bear in mind that many papers written before the recent revision that provide, e.g., measures of seed consumption, actually provide composite measurements of all coexisting species. This problem only applies to the yuccasella complex ("the white species").

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Comprehensive Description

Life habits of immature stages

Tegeticula females oviposit into floral ovaries or developing fruits, and the grublike larvae feed of developing seeds. Usually white during the early instars, the larvae turn pink or to dark red when reaching later instars. The larva bores out through the fruit wall upon maturity, and creates a thick cocoon in the soil. It diapauses, sometimes for more than one year, and pupation apparently takes place a few weeks or less before adult emergence. The pupa is equipped with a frontal protrusion and large spines on the abdominal segments, which serve in burrowing up to the ground surface.

A last-instar larva of T. treculeanella, a member of the yuccasella complex.

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Characteristics

Tegeticula shares one synapomorphy with Parategeticula:

  • tentacle-like appendages arising ventrally between the first and second segments of the maxillary palps in the female (secondarily lost in some Tegeticula)

Two traits that distinguish Tegeticula from Parategeticula are:

  • a sword-shaped ovipositor, used to cut into the host ovary
  • three pairs of setae on the anal plate in the larva (two in Parategeticula)

Maxillary tentacles and pollen load of T. carnerosanella, a species in the Tegeticula yuccasella complex.

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Distribution

Geographic distribution

The range of Tegeticula closely matches the extant distribution of their yucca hosts. This includes the extended ranges of yuccas in interior eastern North America, where European settlers introduced yuccas over the last 150 years. The northern limit of the genus is now in southern Alberta and Ontario in Canada. The southernmost records are from Tehuacan in Puebla, Mexico (Davis 1967).

Riley shipped larvae to Europe in an attempt to introduce yucca moths, but there is no report of success.

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Life History and Behavior

Life Cycle

In the spring, Tegeticula spp. emerge from cocoons and fly to nearby yucca plants and mate. The female then deposits eggs into the yucca plant ovary and deposits a pollen ball on the flower's stigma, pollinating the plant. The larva, usually one or two, hatch inside the developing ovary during late spring and summer and feed on the maturing seeds through the summer and fall. The larva bores out of the fruit upon maturity and creates a cocoon in the soil. The adult then emerges up to one year later.

  • Tegeticula (Olle Pellmyr, Vanderbilt University)
  • Yucca Moths (I. Alvarez and M. Youmans (Editors), Qarrtsiluni, November 2007)
  • The Yucca Plant and the Yucca Moth (M. Ramsay and J. R. Schrock, The Kansas School Naturalist, Volume 41, Number 2, June 1995)
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Evolution and Systematics

Evolution

Discussion of Phylogenetic Relationships

View Tegeticula Tree

Based on Pellmyr et al (1996) and Pellmyr & Leebens-Mack (2000)

The phylogenetic relationship between the three historically recognized species has only been considered in an analysis based on mitochondrial DNA sequence data (Pellmyr et al 1996). The topology is very strongly supported in that analysis. Phylogenetic resolution provided here is based on data from a paper to appear in the American Naturalist (Pellmyr & Leebens-Mack 2000). There is evidence of a rapid radiation event within this group, and relationships among the biologically diverse lineages is not yet clear.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
                                        
Specimen Records:418Public Records:381
Specimens with Sequences:415Public Species:7
Specimens with Barcodes:386Public BINs:4
Species:10         
Species With Barcodes:7         
          
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© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Barcode data

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Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Locations of barcode samples

Collection Sites: world map showing specimen collection locations for Tegeticula

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Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Pollinator

The relationship between the yucca moth (Genus: Tegeticula) and yucca plant (Genus: Yucca) is believed to have begun at least 40 million years ago and is one of the most cited examples of co-evolution. The yucca plant requires pollination by the yucca moth and moth larvae, in turn, require developing yucca seeds for food - a relationship known as an obligate mutualism. This is actually one of the few documented cases of active pollination because the moth purposefully places pollen on the plants' stigmas. The female yucca moth has specially adapted mouth-parts used for pollen handling. The moth drags its tentacles across the yucca's anthers and collects a large amount of pollen, which the moth then forms into a sticky ball and carries it between its tentacles and thorax. This pollen ball is very large - often made of nearly 10,000 grains of pollen - and can constitute up to 10% of the moth's weight. After collecting the pollen ball, the moth flies to a different yucca plant to deposit its eggs. The moth deposits its eggs in the flower's ovary and uses its tentacles to scrape the pollen ball onto the top of the yucca plant's stigma, pollinating the yucca plant. The moth then climbs to the new flower's anthers and collects pollen, and repeats the entire process.

  • Yuccas, Yucca Moths, and Coevolution: A Review (Olle Pellmyr In: Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, Volume 90, pp. 35-55, 2003)
  • The Yucca Plant and the Yucca Moth (M. Ramsay and J. R. Schrock In: The Kansas School Naturalist, Volume 41, Number 2, June 1995)
  • Pollination Partnerships Factsheet (Claire Hemingway, Flora of North America Association, 2004)
  • Yuccas and Yucca Moths (Lund University)
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Wikipedia

Tegeticula

Tegeticula is a genus of moths of the Prodoxidae family, one of three genera known as Yucca moths; they are mutualistic pollinators of various Yucca species.

Species [edit]

References [edit]


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