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We used nuclear 28S rDNA sequence data to estimate the phylogeny of 77 leaf-mining Phyllonorycter (Gracillariidae) moth species, including all 55 British species, feeding on 44 different plant genera. There was strong support for both the monophyly of Phyllonorycter and the placement of the genus Cameraria as its sister group. Host-plant use was mapped onto the moth phylogeny and investigated statistically in several ways. First, we show that the estimated level of cospeciation between leaf miners and their host plants is not greater than expected by chance, despite the physical intimacy of the association. Nevertheless, the pattern of host-plant use is far from random, with closely related Phyllonorycter species generally feeding on closely related plants. However, although Phyllonorycter species from a given host plant tend to form distinct clades, there is also statistical support for multiple independent colonizations of some host-plant taxa (e.g. the order Rosales and the genus Corylus). Despite numerous host shifts, most Phyllonorycter species feed on trees and the few species that attack shrubs or herbs have mostly acquired these habits independently. There is also limited evidence that host shifts to herbs are more likely from shrubs than from trees. Similarly, most species mine the lower surface of leaves but the few upper-surface miners have each evolved the habit independently. Consequently, these shifts to new adaptive zones have not led to substantial radiations.


Journal article



Publication Date





1804 - 1821


Animals, Base Sequence, Ecosystem, Environment, Europe, Likelihood Functions, Models, Genetic, Molecular Sequence Data, Moths, Phylogeny, Plants, Population Dynamics, Sequence Analysis, DNA