Approach to Spodoptera (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) phylogeny based on the sequence of the cytocrhome oxydase I (COI) mitochondrial gene. The genus Spodoptera includes 30 species of moths considered important pests worldwide, with a great representation in the Western Hemisphere. In general, Noctuidae species have morphological similarities that have caused some difficulties for assertive species identification by conventional methods. The purpose of this work was to generate an approach to the genus phylogeny from several species of the genus Spodoptera and the species Bombyx mori as an out group, with the use of molecular tools. For this, a total of 102 S. frugiperda larvae were obtained at random in corn, cotton, rice, grass and sorghum, during late 2006 and early 2009, from Colombia. We took ADN samples from the larval posterior part and we analyzed a fragment of 451 base pairs of the mitochondrial gene cytochrome oxydase I (COI), to produce a maximum likelihood (ML) tree by using 62 sequences (29 Colombian haplotypes were used). Our results showed a great genetic differentiation (K2 distances) amongst S. frugiperda haplotypes from Colombia and the United States, condition supported by the estimators obtained for haplotype diversity and polymorphism. The obtained ML tree clustered most of the species with bootstrapping values from 73-99% in the interior branches; with low values also observed in some of the branches. In addition, this tree clustered two species of the Eastern hemisphere (S. littoralis and S. litura) and eight species of the Western hemisphere (S. androgea, S. dolichos, S. eridania, S. exigua, S. frugiperda, S. latifascia, S. ornithogalli and S. pulchella). In Colombia, S. frugiperda, S. ornithogalli and S. albula represent a group of species referred as “the Spodoptera complex” of cotton crops, and our work demonstrated that sequencing a fragment of the COI gene, allows researchers to differentiate the first two species, and thus it can be used as an alternative method to taxonomic keys based on morphology. Finally, the ML tree did not cluster S. frugiperda with S. ornithogalli, suggesting that both species do not share the same recent ancestral even though they coexist in cotton. We suggest sequencing other genes (mitochondrial and nuclear) to increase our understanding of this genus evolution.
Keywords: phylogeny, spodoptera, cryptic species, gene coi