Meeting 11 October 2016

Tuesday, 11 October 2016 at 7.30 pm
Australian Museum


Andrew Mitchell: Exciting times for dull brown moths

Australia has a diverse fauna of cutworm moths (Noctuidae) with some 1,200 described species. Many are major pests (e.g. the cotton bollworm) and others with their restricted high altitude distributions are likely threatened species, yet surprisingly little is known about them. Recent research has scanned the Australian fauna of one subfamily of cutworms using DNA barcodes. This has revealed hidden genetic diversity, especially among the dull-brown species. Are these new species, diverged populations of existing species or something else? And how is the Australian fauna related to the world fauna? Some answers are starting to emerge through combining the barcodes data with nuclear genes and morphology. This will be a gentle tour through some recent findings.

Andrew obtained his PhD from the University of Maryland in 1998 on the higher-level phylogeny of cutworm moths (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) using nuclear genes. A postdoc at the University of Alberta resulted in a shift of focus to species-level questions, and applied research in biological control. The subsequent rise of DNA barcoding presented opportunities to indulge these interests. Andrew set up Australia’s first DNA barcoding lab with the NSW Department of Primary Industries where he worked on a range of economically important insects. He continues working on both species-level and higher-level systematics, predominantly on Lepidoptera.

Don’t forget your Show and Tell and Photo Comp entries. Stay for refreshments after the talk!

PLEASE NOTE: Access to the building for the meeting is via the steps from William Street. If you require step-free access please phone Helen Smith on 0448 560 255 or Graham Owen on 0418 971 458, preferably PRIOR to the night.