ID Guide 5: Petrophila Research

How did you spend the heat of the summer? Here's what's kept me off the street:

I’ve been deep into study of the genus in Petrophila (Lepidoptera: Crambidae) in Texas and far beyond for the past few months. The initial inspiration for the renewed study was to clarify the confusion over the Jalisco Petrophila (P. jaliscalis of Texas, Oklahoma, and westward to California) and the Florida endemic Santa Fe Petrophila (P. santafealis). That manuscript goes to print in September (Southern Lepidopteris' News), so I’m turning my attention to the rest of the genus. Encouraged by some of the reviewers of the previous manuscript, I’ll eventually take on an ID article for the whole genus. For the time being, I wanted to offer some fresh thoughts on the members of this genus occurring in Texas. I had a major breakthrough (breakdown?) today on some of the tougher ID challenges. Below are some of my newest ideas.

For starters: Here is the array of purported species of Petrophila previously ascribed to Texas. I list the Hodges numbers and I’m giving some of them new common names for ease of communication:

Petrophila daemonalis (#4771), Devil’s River Petrophila
Petrophila cappsi (#4772), Capps’ Petrophila
Petrophila kearfottalis (#4773), Kearfott’s Petrophila*
Petrophila bifascialis (#4774), Two-banded Petrophila
Petrophila jaliscalis (#4775), Jalisco Petrophila
Petrophila confusalis (#4780), Confusing Petrophila*
Petrophila avernalis (#4781), Spring Petrophila
Petrophila cronialis (#4782), Crony Petrophila*
Petrophila longipennis (#4783), Long-winged Petrophila*
Petrophila schaefferalis (#4784), Schaeffer’s Petrophila
Petrophila heppneri (#4784.1), Heppner’s Petrophila

  • May not occur in Texas, despite earlier reports.

TWO-BANDED, KEARFOTT’S, AND CAPPS’ PETROPHILA
(P. bifascialis, P. kearfottalis, and P. cappsi)

Two-banded is quite common and widespread in much of Central Texas, ranging up into Oklahoma. It also occurs in the n.e. US. A key field mark for Two-banded is the solid black spot in the middle of the HW. For years now, I have been identifying similar moths which have an open loop as “Petrophila kearfottalis” but I had a nagging feeling that wasn’t quite right. There is an old suggestion (Lange 1956) that Two-banded can have an open loop on the HW; that would throw a real monkey wrench into all of this. At the same time, the mysterious Capps' Petrophila, which was originally described from Kerrville and which was described as having an open loop on the HW, was hiding in the wings unnoticed and unappreciated. A couple of lines of new evidence have come together over the past week: (a) I reviewed all of the barcodes for the genus Petrophila available on the BOLD Systems website. (Whew!) Among them is barcode index number (BIN) BOLD:ADB2794 which has several Oklahoma specimens identified as P. cappsi which look just like the stuff I’ve been identifying in Texas as P. kearfottalis. Something didn’t jive. (b) After all this review, I’d still never confidently identified a Two-banded with an open loop on the HW so I began to think, “What if Lange was wrong, and all those open-loop versions were actually something else?” So I poured over all the imagery I could get my hands on (iNat, BG, MPG, BOLD) and realized it all made perfect sense if I make the following simplifying ASSUMPTIONS:

  1. There is NO version of Two-banded with an open loop on the HW, or if it exists, it is so rare that it can be ignored.
  2. The open-loop Petrophila’s we’re seeing in CenTex that look like the P. cappsi identified in BOLD:ADB2794, are in fact Capps' Petrophila and NOT Kearfott's.
  3. Assumption 2 clarified my confusion regarding the pseudo-Kearfott’s Petrophila’s that I’d been naming in Central Texas and allowed me to view true Kearfott’s for what it was: a species of the western US with distinct pattern elements very different from our Texas stuff.

Now all of a sudden, the skies lifted and it all became clear: Capps’ and Kearfott’s Petrophila are closely related geographic replacements within the genus. Each set of images within the now clarified ranges are very consistent and very recognizable. And although Munroe (1972, p. 121) states that Kearfott’s Petrophila ranges into western Texas, I haven’t found any examples of good-looking Kearfott’s in Texas yet.

In the next few days, I will be shaking up the Texas Petrophila world by re-identifying all the previous Kearfott’s as the once-hidden Capps' Petrophila. I also hope to pick out some way—any way—to discriminate between Two-banded and Capps’ when the HW isn’t visible. I’m working on that; I think I’m close.

Posted by gcwarbler gcwarbler, August 30, 2019 04:56

Comments

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Well, I knew you were working on this, but an impressive analysis for sure. I am still in a fog on many of these but very glad you have opened this up in this way.

Posted by greglasley about 1 year ago (Flag)
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Wow! What a monumental amount of work this has been! I truly appreciate your dedication to sorting out this and other groups of moths; thank you!

Posted by beschwar about 1 year ago (Flag)
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Nice article Chuck....hopefully some of it sticks in my head!

Posted by jeffmci9 about 1 year ago (Flag)
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I am awed.... Wow!

Posted by connlindajo about 1 year ago (Flag)
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Thanks for your work.

Posted by centratex 12 months ago (Flag)
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Posted by gcwarbler about 2 months ago (Flag)

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