Research project: Revision of Australian lichen moths


Start date:

Museum investigators

  • Dr David Britton , Head, Natural Sciences & Biodiversity Conservation


Lichen moths (Lepidoptera: Arctiidae, Lithosiinae) are small and brightly coloured, and have caterpillars that eat encrusting lichen and algae. There are many uniquely Australian genera of lichen moths, which have adults that show complex development of glandular scales and other pheromonal structures in both sexes. Genitalia are also rich in characters, but have not been included in any studies of the Australian fauna.

Some northern Australian genera show links with Papua New Guinea and South-East Asia, but there has been a distinctive radiation in the south of Australia. Several species are also restricted to inland arid and semi-arid habitats, and may be linked to environmental variables such as the presence of algal soil crusts.

A current revision looks at the genus Asura, which has species in all parts of Australia. This genus once included moths from Asia and Africa, but is now thought to be restricted to Australia.

Dr David Britton , Head, Natural Sciences & Biodiversity Conservation
Last Updated: