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Research article2016Peer reviewedOpen access

A little further south: Host range and genetics of the Northern pine processionary moth, Thaumetopoea pinivora (Lepidoptera: Notodontidae) at the southern edge of its distribution

Hódar, José A.; Lundhagen, Anna; Battisti, Andrea; Larsson, Stig


The Northern pine processionary moth, Thaumetopoea pinivora (Treitschke, 1834) shows a highly scattered distribution with fragmented populations across Europe. A previous study exploring the postglacial history of T. pinivora defined it as a cold-tolerant relict species and concluded that a progressive reduction of suitable habitats after the postglacial expansion from refugia in the southern Iberian peninsula best explained the distribution and genetic structure of populations of this species. However, recent records, both by us and others, challenge this view. Surprisingly, some of the newly found populations from southern Spain use black pine, Pinus nigra J.F. Arnold as a host plant despite the fact that the typical host of the species, Scots pine, Pinus sylvestris L. occurs in the area. We provide genetic data for one of these recently found southern populations where the larvae feed on P. nigra, and compare this with previously published data on individuals collected on P. sylvestris. This data reveals that populations from different host trees are no more genetically differentiated than populations sharing the same host plant. The findings of a wider diet breadth open the way to widen the search for the still unidentified glacial refugium of T. pinivora, and as such may contribute to a better understanding about how the species has spread across Europe.


Lepidoptera; Notodontidae; Thaumetopoea pinivora; deforestation; genetic diversity; host shift; marginal woodlands; relict populations

Published in

European Journal of Entomology
2016, Volume: 113, pages: 200-206

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