Carlo Seifert

Species diversity and phylogenetic position of Eois (Lepidoptera: Geometridae: Larentiinae) on Peperomia (Piperaceae) in a mountain rainforest in the south Ecuadorian Andes

In the past, Eois larvae (Lepidoptera: Geometridae: Larentiinae) were commonly assumed to be predominantly monophagous on various Piper species. Only few feeding records indicated that some species may also exploit other host plants such as Peperomia (Piperaceae).

In this study I examined how many species of Eois in one focal area are affiliated with Peperomia and where these are located within the phylogeny of the genus. Furthermore, it was investigated, based on a tangled tree, if specific phylogenetic patterns exist between Eois moths and Peperomia plants. Additionally, for all observed Eois taxa larval stages are described and illustrated for the first time and information about their natural history is given. The study took place in the south Ecuadorian Andes, spanning three elevational bands between 1000 and 3100m a.s.l. Specimens of Eois were collected between 2012 and 2013 by visually scanning plants of the species-rich genus Peperomia. Eois were identified to species level using DNA-barcoding. Trophic relationships to Peperomia spp. were established by the observation of feeding behaviour on their original host plant. Phylogeny hypotheses of Eois and Peperomia were generated by means of DNA sequence data and compared to each other to examine possible co-evolutionary relationships.

At least eight (out of 20-25) morphospecies of Peperomia plants were confirmed as host plants used by 10 genetically clearly distinguishable Eois species. Two of these moth species, Eois albosignata (Dognin, 1911) and Eois bolana (Dognin, 1899), are validly described while seven further taxa could merely be matched to undescribed morphospecies known from previous light trapping campaigns in the study area. One new species was encountered for the first time. The scattered placement of observed Eois species within the phylogeny of the moth genus clearly suggests that at least five convergent host switches to Peperomia have occurred. Multiple independent host shifts, probably always away from Piper, to another single plant genus are currently uniquely documented within Eois. Associations of the phylogenies show no evidence for co-speciation processes between Eois and Peperomia.

This work reveals that distinctly more Eois moth species feed on Peperomia plants than previously thought, and that Eois is less strictly associated with Piper than former assumptions had suggested.


  • Seifert C.L., Bodner F., Brehm G., Fiedler K. (2015) Host Plant Associations and Parasitism of South Ecuadorian Eois Species (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) Feeding on Peperomia (Piperaceae), Journal of Insect Science, DOI: 10.1093/jisesa/iev098. Link to Article
  • Seifert C.L., Lehner L., Adams M.-O., Fiedler K. (2015) Predation on artificial caterpillars is higher in countryside than near-natural forest habitat in lowland south-western Costa Rica, Journal of Tropical Ecology, Volume 31, Issue 03, pp 281-284 DOI: 10.1017/S0266467415000012. Link to Article