Skip to main content
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Molecular phylogeny, classification, biogeography and diversification patterns of a diverse group of moths (Geometridae: Boarmiini)

Murillo-Ramos, Leidys; Chazot, Nicolas; Sihvonen, Pasi; Onuap, Erki; Jiang, Nan; Han, Hongxiang; Clarke, John T.; Davis, Robert B.; Tammaru, Toomas; Wahlberg, Niklas


Understanding how and why some groups have become more species-rich than others, and how past biogeography may have shaped their current distribution, are questions that evolutionary biologists have long attempted to answer. We investigated diversification patterns and historical biogeography of a hyperdiverse lineage of Lepidoptera, the geometrid moths, by studying its most species-rich tribe Boarmiini, which comprises ca. 200 genera and ca. known 3000 species. We inferred the evolutionary relationships of Boarmiini based on a dataset of 346 taxa, with up to eight genetic markers under a maximum likelihood approach. The monophyly of Boarmiini is strongly supported. However, the phylogenetic position of many taxa does not agree with current taxonomy, although the monophyly of most major genera within the tribe is supported after minor adjustments. Three genera are synonymized, one new combination is proposed, and four species are placed in incertae sedis within Boarmiini. Our results support the idea of a rapid initial diversification of Boarmiini, which also implies that no major taxonomic subdivisions of the group can currently be proposed. A time-calibrated tree and biogeographical analyses suggest that boarmiines appeared in Laurasia ca. 52 Mya, followed by dispersal events throughout the Australasian, African and Neotropical regions. Most of the transcontinental dispersal events occurred in the Eocene, a period of intense geological activity and rapid climate change. Diversification analyses showed a relatively constant diversification rate for all Boarmiini, except in one clade containing the species-rich genus Cleora. The present work represents a substantial contribution towards understanding the evolutionary origin of Boarmiini moths. Our results, inevitably biased by taxon sampling, highlight the difficulties with working on species-rich groups that have not received much attention outside of Europe. Specifically, poor knowledge of the natural history of geometrids (particularly in tropical clades) limits our ability to identify key innovations underlying the diversification of boarmiines.


Lepidoptera; polyphagyPolyphagy; female flightlessness; boarmiines; Cleora; Biston; BAMM; BioGeoBEARS

Published in

Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
2021, volume: 162, article number: 107198

Authors' information

Murillo-Ramos, Leidys
Lund University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Sihvonen, Pasi
Finnish Museum of Natural History
Onuap, Erki
University of Tartu
Jiang, Nan
Institute of Zoology, CAS
Han, Hongxiang
Institute of Zoology, CAS
Clarke, John T.
University of Tartu
Davis, Robert B.
University of Tartu
Tammaru, Toomas
University of Tartu
Wahlberg, Niklas
Lund University

UKÄ Subject classification

Evolutionary Biology

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)