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Four new species of Telanepsia Turner (Lepidoptera: Oecophoridae) with larvae feeding on koala and possum scats

Common, IFB & Horak, M 1994, Invertebrate Systematics, vol. 8, pp. 809-828.

Four new Telanepsia moth species (Lepidoptera: Oecophoridae) have been found in koala and possum scats in southern Australia. The new species have been named T. stockeri, T. scatophilia, T. tidbinbilla and T. coprobora. The terminology and morphological ratios of T. stockeri, T. scatophilia, T. tidbinbilla and T. coprobora are examined in this study.

  The Telanepsia is an endemic genus. Previous studies have identified and described 13 other species with at least seven more species still undescribed. Telanepsia are small, narrow moths widely distributed across Australia. T. stockeri and T. scatophila were found during a koala distribution study in Tantawangalo State Forest in south-eastern New South Wales and the larvae of T. tidbinbilla were found in faecal samples in the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve in the Australian Capital Territory. The fourth species, T. coprobora, was discovered in possum scat in western Victoria. Species-specific body description, analysis of male and female genitalia, biology and distribution of the new species are outlined. The larvae generally live entirely within the faecal matter. Once larvae stop feeding there are different metamorphic processes dependent on the species. In T. stockeri, T. scatophilia and T. tidbinbilla, the hollow scat is lined with a silk-like material that forms an intricate escape mechanism allowing the mature moth to emerge. In T. coprobora the larvae lives and pupates beneath the possum scat. Larvae were also successfully reared under laboratory conditions proving that the moths were resistant to different environmental conditions. The scat of folivorous species like the koala host ideal conditions for Telanepsia to establish, most likely due to the rich food source it provides.   

  This research has increased our understanding of the morphological, life patterns and ecological factors that impact the newly described Telanepsia species and has raised the possibility of the discovery of more Telanepsia species. The symbiotic relationship between Telanepsia species and eucalypt feeders such as koalas emphasises the importance of biodiversity in the locations examined. Conservation of folivorous species is necessary to the survival rates of Telanepsia species.


Summarised by Penelope Webster


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