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Language: English with bilingual summary in English and Maori
Lithinini are one of the most widespread tribes of ennomine looper moths, being represented on every continent except Antarctica. These small, narrow-bodied moths are one of the few groups of herbivorous insects for whom ferns are a primary food source. New Zealand's lithinine moth fauna is wholly endemic and for a relatively small country, surprisingly diverse, having three genera comprising eight species. In fact it's not so surprising, because New Zealand's forests provide an optimal environment for these moths, which exploit ferns as their primary food source, and are well adapted to life in temperate rainforest with high pteridophyte diversity and biomass.
Adult lithinine moths visit flowers of various plants such as native Myrtaceae and cultivated Loganiaceae to feed on nectar, while the females deposit eggs on or near the ferns on which the larvae feed. The larvae of Lithinini exhibit a characteristic defense mechanism when disturbed, dropping or jumping off the host plant and twisting rapidly if the disturbance continues. Lithinini use a wide range of plants as host plants, from the low-growing members of the forest herb layer to broad-leaved ferns and the towering tree ferns.
In this Fauna the New Zealand Lithinini are reviewed with a general discussion of morphology and natural history. A key is provided to the eight species, and comprehensive distribution data are provided for all taxa. Host plant association data and information on immature stages are reviewed for all New Zealand genera and summarised.
Contributor Jason D. Weintraub is the Entomology Collection Manager at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Currently cataloguing the primary type specimens of the Academy's insect collection, and researching the geometrid moth fauna of the Greater Antilles, his museum and field research on Lepidoptera have taken him to over 30 countries on six continents during the past three decades.
Contributor Malcolm Scoble has been at the Natural History Museum, London since 1985, and is currently Associate Keeper of the Entomology Department there. Since his PhD studies on the taxonomy of the Nepticulidae, his subsequent research on Lepidoptera has been mainly on the Geometridae, the family Hedylidae, and the typification of Linnaeus's butterflies.