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1 December 2013 Gnorimoschema Brackenridgiella (Busck, 1903), a Valid Species (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae)
Vazrick Nazari
Author Affiliations +

G.[elechia]? detersella” was described by James Braekenridge Clemens in 1860, with no indication of the type locality. Hodges (1986:36) suggested that unless otherwise stated, Clemens' home and environs in Easton, Pennsylvania should be considered as the locality for his material. The type specimen of detersella, together with the rest of Clemens' collection now reside in the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia (ANSP, type #7341).

Clemens’ original description reads as follows: “G.? detersella. Head and face grayish fuscous. Labial palpi pale yellowish-white, with two fuscous patches on the middle joint, a very narrow fuscous ring at the base of terminal joint, a broad one near the tip, with the extreme apex whitish. Antennae grayish fuscous, annulated with dark fuscous. Fore wings grayish, very profusely dusted with dark fuscous, with a dark fuscous spot on the disk; cilia ochreous gray. Hind wings pale ochreous-gray; cilia pale ochreous. Feet annulated with whitish.”

Clemens also sent two specimens from his original series to Henry Stainton in the Natural History Museum (BMNH), where they still reside. Acknowledging their receipt, Stainton (1872) expressed doubts about their identity and thought that they were affiliated with the European Gelechia affinis Haworth, 1828 (now in Bryotropha). He also realized that Clemens' name detersella was preoccupied by Gelechia detersella Zeller, 1847, and was in need of a replacement name. This was later accomplished by Busck (1903a) who proposed the name Gelechia brackenridgiella as a replacement for detersella Clemens. At the time of his publication, Busek was unaware of the existence of Clemens's material which was already in ANSP. He wrote: “… no types exist in this country [United States] of this species … Co-types of this species should be examined in British Museum, where the two specimens sent to Stainton by Clemens in 1860 presumably are found” (1903a). But soon after, in a supplement to the same paper (Busek 1903b), he clarified: “A very unexpected source of information has come to light in the discovery of the types of the late Braekenridge Clemens, in the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. These types had been given up as lost, but were found a short time ago in an old-fashioned box, which had been put away in some out-of-the-way corner and forgotten. My delight in unearthing this gold mine for the student of American Tineina quite overshadowed my first very natural chagrin over the changes necessitated in my work”. Here, under the new combination “Gnorimoschema brackenridgiella”, Busck wrote: “The type of Gelechia detersella, Clemens' No. 75, was found in good condition, though lacking the left wings. It proves the species to belong to the genus Gnorimoschema Busck, and is very close to but distinct from scutellariella Chambers.” He went on to describe the differences between detersella and scutellariella, and concluded, “The removal of this species to Gnorimoschema may make the change of specific name questionable, but for the present I shall retain the new name”.

Over the years, the name brackenridgiella was used as a valid name under Gnorimoschema (Smith 1903, Busck 1939), although Barnes and MeDunnough (1917) and McDunnough (1939) listed detersella as the valid name and placed brackenridgella [sic] under it as a synonym. Forbes (1923) incorrectly identified a gall-making species on Aster from Magnolia, Massachusetts, as Gnorimoschema brackenridgella [sic] and compared it to several other gall-making species; these are a group of much larger moths with a completely different habitus.

In 1929 Meyrick examined and identified a series of 20 specimens collected by Herbert Simpson Parish from “Toronto, Muskoka, May–August” in the British Museum as brackenridgella [sic]. It seems that Meyrick's concept of the brackenridgiella was based solely on Clemens’ short description of detersella, because there is no evidence that he ever saw Clemens’ specimens in the BMNH. At the time, Stainton's world collection was maintained separately from the main world collection at the BMNH, and unless Meyrick specifically cheeked the former, he would have missed them. Meyrick re-described and transferred brackenridgiella (as well as batanella Busck) under Phthorimaea, stating “… I believe this to be detersella Clem[ens]; as it seems to be little known, and published descriptions are very imperfect, I rede scribe it”.

Nearly 40 years later, after examining a male specimen from Parish's series identified by Meyrick in BMNH, Povolný (1967) wrote, “The specimen of Phthorimaea brackenridgella [sic] is nonspecific with Scrobipalpa atriplicella (F.v.R.) which fact [sic] suggests the possible synonymy of the former”. Povolný also never examined Clemens' specimens of detersella and his statement on the synonymy of brackenridgiella with atriplicella was solely based on one of Parish's specimens from Canada identified as such by Meyrick. Since then, Hodges (1983), Lee et al (2010) and Huemer & Karsholt (2010) have all followed Povolný in accepting brackenridgiella (=detersella) as a synonym of Scrobipalpa atriplicella.

Fig. 1.

Adults, labels and genitalia dissections of specimens of Gelechia detersella Clemens. Top row: Lectotype (ANSP), dissection RWH2940; mid row: Paralectotype specimen 2/2 (BMNH), dissection BMNH33489; bottom row: Paralectotype specimen 1/2 (BMNH) [=ScrobipaIpula henshawiella (Busck), original misidentification by Clemens], dissection BMNH33488. The scale bar on genitalia images represents 100 µm.


The two specimens of G. detersella in the BMNH were at some later point moved into the main world collection, given additional labels to indicate their provenance and labeled as paralectotypes. This was perhaps accomplished by Brian Ridout, an assistant in the 1970s (K. Tuck, pers. comm.). These specimens are now in drawer M10-189 of BMNH main world collection of Gelechiidae under S. atriplicella.

As part of an ongoing study of the North American Gnorimoschemini, I borrowed the type and genitalia dissection of G. detersella from ANSP, as well as Clemens' two specimens in the BMNH. In order to verify Povolný's identification of Meyrick's brackenridgiella from Canada (on which the synonymy is based), I also borrowed a male specimen from Parish’s series in BMNH. From the original 20, only 16 specimens remain today in BMNH, none of which bear an identification label by Povolný. It seems likely that Povolný kept part of the material loaned to him back in 1960s (Tuck, pers. comm.).

I dissolved, unrolled and remounted the male genitalia of the detersella type (Hodges prep. RWH2940), and made new dissections of the three BMNH specimens. One of Clemens' specimens was a very close match with the ANSP type, and a genuine Gnorimoschema that is unlike any of the other described species within this genus that are known to me. The taxon therefore merits recognition as a valid species. I hereby designate Clemens' specimen of Gelechia detersella in ANSP as the Lectotype (here designated), and reinstate the replacement name Gnorimoschema brackenridgiella (Busck) as a valid species (stat. rev.). No syntypes of detersella exist in ANSP (Weintraub, pers. comm.), and the two paraleetotypes in BMNH (here designated) seem to be the only other known specimens. One of these two (labeled specimen 2/2; dissection BMNH33489) is a genuine detersella; it carries an inverted red “Type” label as well as a hand-written label by Stainton that reads: “Gelechia ? detersella, Clemens / Proc. n. S. Phil. 1860 p.164 / perhaps allied to G. affinis”. The second specimen (labeled 1/2; dissection BMNH33488) however proved to be a Scrobipalpula henshawiella (Busck, 1903), a common North American species with an external appearance that is somewhat similar to G. brackenridgiella. This was an original misidentification by Clemens. A new label is added to this specimen to rectify the error. And finally, dissection of the male specimen from Parish's Canadian series (not shown) confirmed that it is indeed a Scrobipalpa atriplicella (F.v.R.). Povolný may be vindicated for a correct identification, but he was responsible for an incorrect synonymy that persisted for nearly half a century.

Revised nomenclature

Gnorimoschema brackenridgiella (Busck, 1903) (stat. rev.)

  • G. [elechia]? detersella Clemens, 1860: 40, 116. Preoccupied by Gelechia detersella Zeller, 1847: 846.

  • Gelechia brackenridgiella Busck, 1903a: 894. Replacement name for Gelechia detersella Clemens, 1860: 164. — Huemer & Karsholt 2010: 128 [as a synonym of Scrobipalpa atriplicella (F. v. Röslerstamm].

  • Gnorimoschema brackenridgiella; Busck, 1903b: 934.

  • Gnorimoschema brackenridgella; Smith 1903: 110 (as a synonym of detersella). — Barnes & McDunnough 1917: 155. — Forbes 1923: 274. — Povolný 1967: 125 [as a synonym of Scrobipalpa atriplicella (F. v. Röslerstamm)].— Hodges 1983: 22.— Lee et al 2010: 26 [under S. atriplicella (F. v. Röslerstamm)]. Misspelling of brackenridgiella.

  • Phthorimaea brackenridgella; Meyrick 1929: 493. Misspelling of brackenridgiella.

  • Acknowledgements

    I thank Jean-François Landry (CNC) and two anonymous JLS reviewers for their valuable comments on an earlier draft of the paper, as well as Jason Weintraub (ANSP) and Kevin Tuck (BMNH) for loaning me the type material of detersella and providing background information.

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    Vazrick Nazari "Gnorimoschema Brackenridgiella (Busck, 1903), a Valid Species (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae)," The Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 67(4), 301-304, (1 December 2013).
    Received: 20 December 2012; Accepted: 6 March 2013; Published: 1 December 2013
    Gelechia detersella
    North America
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