Taxonomy

Revision of  Heteranassa moths

My research on erebine moths began with Heteranassa, a genus of medium sized moths native to desert areas in the Southwestern United Sates and Mexico. Samples of Heteranassa collected at White Sands needed to be identified, and there was no means to separate the two recognized species. To resolve this question of species identity, it was necessary to conduct a taxonomic revision. I examined type specimens for each of the three species described in the genus as well as hundreds of specimens across the geographic range of the species. Although species from Texas look different from species from Arizona which look different than species from California, the different forms seemed to grade in to one another. Morphological and DNA barcode data confirmed that the genus consists of a single, variable species.

A new species from Cuatrocienagas, Mexico

Cuatrocienagas is an unusual ecosystem in the Chihuahuan desert, located in Coahuila, Mexico. Aquifer-fed pools are filled with water year round, and an isolated and unique wetland community surrounds these pools in the middle of the desert. This research took place as a result of an arthropod survey of White Sands National Monument and Cuatrocienagas Protected Area, with a major objective being the discovery of new endemic species adapted to live in these unique ecosystems. Working in collaboration with taxonomic experts and museum curators to examine type specimens,  we confirmed that the specimens belong to an undescribed species. The moth is only known from the wetland habitat surrounding these pools.

Review of Erebinae classification

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I reviewed the taxonomic history of the species belonging to the Erebinae to put my molecular phylogenetic studies in the context of earlier classifications. These earlier classifications were often in conflict due to differences in the interpretation of characters and their taxonomic utility. The result of these competing classifications is a complex taxonomic history. Through this process, I identified all earlier hypothesis of relationships between genera of erebine moths. These earlier, morphology-based hypotheses were then compared to the results of recent studies based on molecular data. This study identified sets of morphological characters used to classify groups of erebine genera which also have molecular support. Identifying characters such as these is an important first step towards developing a key to Erebinae which can be used in the field.