Phylogeographic structure in the bogus yucca moth Prodoxus quinquepunctellus (Prodoxidae): Comparisons with coexisting pollinator yucca moths

David M. Althoff, Joshua D. Groman, Kari A. Segraves, Olle Pellmyr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The pollination mutualism between yucca moths and yuccas highlights the potential importance of host plant specificity in insect diversification. Historically, one pollinator moth species, Tegeticula yuccasella, was believed to pollinate most yuccas. Recent phylogenetic studies have revealed that it is a complex of at least 13 distinct species, eight of which are specific to one yucca species. Moths in the closely related genus Prodoxus also specialize on yuccas, but they do not pollinate and their larvae feed on different plant parts. Previous research demonstrated that the geographically widespread Prodoxus quinquepunctellus can rapidly specialize to its host plants and may harbor hidden species diversity. We examined the phylogeographic structure of P. quinquepunctellus across its range to compare patterns of diversification with six coexisting pollinator yucca moth species. Morphometric and mtDNA cytochrome oxidase I sequence data indicated that P. quinquepunctellus as currently described contains two species. There was a deep division between moth populations in the eastern and the western United States, with limited sympatry in central Texas; these clades are considered separate species and are redescribed as P. decipiens and P. quinquepunctellus (sensu stricto), respectively. Sequence data also showed a lesser division within P. quinquepunctellus s.s. between the western populations on the Colorado Plateau and those elsewhere. The divergence among the three emerging lineages corresponded with major biogeographic provinces, whereas AMOVA indicated that host plant specialization has been relatively unimportant in diversification. In comparison, the six pollinator species comprise three lineages, one eastern and two western. A pollinator species endemic to the Colorado Plateau has evolved in both of the western lineages. The east-west division and the separate evolution of two Colorado Plateau pollinator species suggest that similar biogeographic factors have influenced diversification in both Tegeticula and Prodoxus. For the pollinators, however, each lineage has produced a monophagous species, a pattern not seen in P. quinquepunctellus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-127
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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