Classification of Tuta absoluta (Meyrick, 1917) (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae: Gelechiinae: Gnorimoschemini) based on cladistic analysis of morphology.
Tuta absoluta (Meyrick, 1917) is one of the most notorious pests of solanaceous plants in the World (Biondi et al. 2018), however, its supra-specific classification has been an historical point of contention. Its original genus, PhthorimaeaMeyrick, 1902, was a catch-all within the family and the generic limits among its contained tribe, Gnorimoschemini Povolný, 1964, are unstable. This study represents the first attempt to classify T. absoluta among taxa of Gnorimoschemini using cladistic methodology. We constructed a tree hypothesis based on 22 morphological characters using the nominal taxa for the genera Phthorimaea, ScrobipalpuloidesPovolný, 1987, and TutaKieffer and Jörgensen, 1910 among the ingroup; and the nominal taxon for the tribe Gnorimoschemini, Gnorimoschema gallaesolidaginis (Riley, 1869), as the outgroup. The parsimony analysis resulted in a single shortest tree with T. absoluta in a monophyletic clade that included Phthorimaea operculella (Zeller, 1873), the type species of Phthorimaea. The genera Tuta and Scrobipalpuloides were also resolved in the tree hypothesis. We propose the reinstated combination Phthorimaea absoluta Meyrick, 1917 and the new combination Phthorimaea chiquitella (Busck, 1910). The genera Tuta (with the single species Tuta atriplicellaKieffer and Jörgensen, 1910) and Scrobipalpuloides remain valid in Gnorimoschemini. We provide a history of the taxonomy of Tuta absoluta and a detailed character list and matrix used in our analysis.