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1 August 2016 The Lepidoptera of White Sands National Monument, Otero County, New Mexico, USA 11. A New Species of Arotrura Walsingham 1888 (Scythrididae), Another Iconic Species from the Monument
Eric H. Metzler
Author Affiliations +

The U.S. National Park Service initiated a 10-year study of the Lepidoptera at White Sands National Monument, Otero County, New Mexico in late 2006. Arotrura landryorum sp. n., described here, was discovered in 2007, during the first year of the study. The male and female adult moths and genitalia are illustrated.

In 2006, White Sands National Monument invited me to conduct a 10-year study of moths at the Monument. The study began in late 2006 and within the first few months, I found several species of moths new to science (unpublished data) including the one described here. Species of the family Scythrididae are very difficult to separate superficially. The North American genera of Scythrididae were revised by Landry (1991) in which he described six new species of Arotrura. He mentioned having seen more than 60 additional undescribed species in the genus. Arotrura landryorum, described here, is none of the undescribed species mentioned by Landry. Landry (1991) specifically explained that many species of Scythrididae are identical in outward appearance, thus making it very difficult for a positive identification without examining the genital organs. The description of this species is another in a series of publications describing new species of moths at White Sands National Monument (WSNM), Otero County, New Mexico, USA (see Metzler 2014, Metzler 2016, Metzler et al. 2009, Metzler & Forbes, 2011a, 2011b, 2011c, Metzler & Lightfoot 2014).

Methods and Materials

Moths and other night flying insects were collected in U.S.D.A. type black-light traps, as described in Smith et al. (1974), in diverse habitats within the dunes in White Sands National Monument. A detailed description of the study methods is given by Metzler et al. (2009).

All, except easily identified (i.e. Hyles lineata) species of moths, were retained for further study. The specimens were sorted; selected specimens were spread and labeled. All nonlepidopterous insects from the traps were placed in 95% ethanol and deposited in the Museum of Southwestern Biology at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The moth genitalia were prepared and examined by following procedure outlined in Landry (1991). After cleaning, dissected parts were stained first with Orange G in lactic acid followed by Chlorazol Black in 70% ethanol. Dissected parts were dehydrated in 99.9% propanol and slide-mounted in Euparal. Small vinyl props were used to raise the cover slips of thick genitalia preparations. For males, different mounts were prepared for dorsal and lateral views.

Terms for elements of wing markings, regions of the wing, color, morphology, and genital structures follows Landry (1991). Forewing lengths were measured to the nearest 0.1 mm, from the base to the apex excluding fringe, using a Leica MZ 12 stereo-microscope with a Wild 15x ocular micrometer.

The photographs of the adults were taken with a Canon EOS 60D with a Canon 65mm MP-E lens, and a Nikon D7100 with an AF-S Micro Nikkor 105mm 1.28 GED lens. The images were processed with Zerene Systems software and Photoshop CS6 software. The photographs of the genitalia and slide-mounted structures were taken with Nikon DS-Fi1 digital camera mounted on a Nikon Eclipse 800 microscope at magnifications of 40× or 100×. Nikon's NIS 2.3 Elements was used to assemble multiple photos of different focal planes into single deep-focus images.

Fig. 1.

Arotrura landryorum adults; 1a, male holotype (photographed before dissection.) 1b, female paratype (reversed left side shown, same scale as Fig. 1a);


The coordinates for latitude and longitude on the labels of the specimens from the study are in degrees and decimal minutes. The coordinates were obtained with the aid of a Garman II Plus and confirmed by reference to Google™ Earth Pro Specimens of Lepidoptera cited in this paper are deposited in the following collections:


Eric H. Metzler, Alamogordo, NM, for subsequent transfer to MSUC


Michigan State University's A.J. Cook Arthropod Research Collection


University of New Mexico's Museum of Southwestern Biology


United States Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution), Washington, DC


Arotrura landryorum Metzler, sp. n.
Figs 1-6

  • Type material.

    ♂ Holotype, pinned, double-mounted, with labels as follows:

    “ New Mexico: Otero Co., W[hite]S[ands]N[ational] M[onument]; Dunes/no vegetation, 11–12 June 2007; 32°45.778′N, 106°11.391′W, 4,014 ft; Coll. E.H. Metzler & D. Adamski; Blacklight/WHSA 00131″; “Specimen # USNMENT01142721″; [blue label] “Barcode of Life Project Leg(s) removed, DNA extracted”; [upside down barcode] “USNMENT01142721″; [green label] “Genitalia slide by JFLandry, ♂ USNM 130,266″; [red label] “HOLOTYPE USNM; Arotrura landryorum Metzler”. Deposited in USNM.

  • Paratypes: (♂7), (♀1): same locality/date as holotype:

    CNCLEP00121863, ♂genitalia slide USNM 130,252 by JFLandry; CNCLEP00121864, ♂genitalia slide USNM 130,253 by JFLandry; USNMENT01142708, ♂genitalia slide USNM 130,255 by JFLandry; USNMENT01142713, ♂genitalia slide USNM 130,254 by JFLandry. Deposited in EHM, UNM, USNM. (♂4), specimens # USNMENT01142716, USNMENT01142719, USNMENT01142720: USA, NM, Otero Co., White Sands Nat [ional]. Mon [ument], interdunal vegetation, 32°45.685′N, 106°11.379′W, 4,000′, 10 June 2013, WHSA8, Eric H. Metzler uv trp, Accss # WHSA 00131. Abdomens not dissected. Deposited in MSUC. (♀1) specimen # USNMENT01142732, ♀genitalia slide USNM 130,264 by JFLandry: USA, NM, Otero Co., White Sands Nat [ional]. Mon [ument], edge of dunes habitat, 32°45.724′N, 106°11.315′W, 4,000′, 10 June 2013, WHSA8, Eric H. Metzler uv trp, Accss # WHSA 00131. Deposited in USNM.

  • Diagnosis. The diagnostic features are the yellowwhite adults and the genital structures. The color, size, and shape of the moth help narrow the possibilities, yet three other undescribed species of Scythrididae, with identical habitus, but differing in genitalia, were collected microsympatrically and on the same date with A. landryorum. Dissections and/or DNA barcodes are required to distinguish the species.

    Arotrura landryorum is a small (forewing length = 9.0–13.0 mm) pale white-yellow moth (Fig. 1). In the key to species groups of Arotrura based on genitalia (Landry, 1991), males of A. landryorum key out to the A. divaricata species group, which comprises two described species, A. divaricata (Braun, 1923) and A. oxyplecta (Meyrick, 1916). Both are dark gray species with a transverse zigzagged white fascia in the basal third of forewing, outwardly very different from the uniformly pale ivory-white A. landryorum.

    The habitus of A. landryorum is superficially similar to some Arotrura in other species groups, notably A. eburnea and A. formidabilis in being pale white yellow. The differences between species can only be seen in specimens that are dissected, with the genitalia of both sexes of A. landryorum sharing the characteristic aspect of the A. divaricata group, namely the horned profile of the socii, the concavity with small pits in the fused medial region of the socii, and the slender aedeagus with a bulbous base set at the apex of a long, blade-like juxta.

    Because of the paucity of specimens of A. oxyplecta coupled with, as yet, no clearly associated males and females (Clarke, 1965; Landry, 1991), I limit the genitalia comparison of A. landryorum to A. divaricata. The latter is also known from New Mexico, whereas the occurrence of A. oxyplecta outside of its type locality (Florida) remains unconfirmed.

    In male genitalia, the distal 3/5 of the valvae of A. landryorum are markedly up curved with the apices at 90 degrees from the base and extended to the top of the socii, the horn-like socii are extended caudad more than the ventral lobes, the base of the socii is dorsally humped, adorned with long, recumbent setae, the anterior section connecting to the tegumen is narrow and constricted, the gnathos is long and extended below the valvae, and the sides of the tegumen are more slender with widely separated anterior margins (Fig. 2a–c). In A. divaricata, distal half of the valvae is only slightly up curved, with obliquely truncate apices below the socii-gnathos; the horn-like socii have the ventral lobe extended beyond the apex of the dorsal horns; base of the socii is nearly flat, with shorter, more erect setae, the anterior section broadly connected to the tegumen; the gnathos is short with the apex above the valvae; and sides of the tegumen are broadly rounded with nearly contiguous anterior margins (Fig. 3a–c).

    The male T8 of A. landryorum is distally conical with a rounded apex, and has lateral angles that are markedly projected into elbow-like processes (Fig. 2d). In male A. divaricata, T8 is rectangular-conical with the apex subtruncate and dentiform corners, and the lateral angles are not projected (Fig. 3d).

    The female sterigma of A. landryorum is parallelsided with an apical notch and the membrane of S8 is very finely spiculate (Fig. 4a–b), whereas in A. divaricata the sterigma is laterally dilated with the apex rounded and the S8 membrane is coarsely spiculate (Fig. 5a–b).

    The female sternite 7 of A. landryorum is nearly rectangular with an anterior crescentic invagination of the intersegmental membrane and a postero-median unmelanized zone, and tergum 7 is parallel-sided (Fig. 4c); whereas in A. divaricata S7 is broadly scoopshaped posteriorly, without anterior invagination and postero-median unmelanized zone, but with a notch instead, and the sides anteriorly sinuate (Fig. 5c).

  • Description. Adult male (Fig 1a): Head: Front and vertex smooth, scales directed forward and ventrally, pale yellow; palpi sickle-shaped, up curved to vertex, divergent apically, scales slightly shaggy ventrally, otherwise appressed, pale yellow. Base of haustellum densely scaled, scales appressed, pale yellow. Eye with long thin pale yellow lashes dorsally and ventrally. Antenna first segment robust, long hair-like scales directed anteriorly, densely scaled dorsally, shaggy, pale yellow; antennae to apex dorsum densely scaled, pale yellow; ventrally naked with dense short setae. Thorax: Thoracic scales appressed, pale yellow, tegulae with long hair-like scales directed posteriorly, pale yellow; underside, scales appressed, whitish; foreleg unarmed, scales appressed, whitish; midleg with terminal claw, scales appressed except ventrally shaggy, whitish; hind leg with two pair femur spurs, dorsally shaggy, ventral scales appressed, whitish; hind leg tarsomeres ventral surface with dense semi-erect scale bundles resembling short spurs, dorsal scales appressed, pale yellow. Forewing lanceolate, pale yellow to white, no markings, scattered gypsum colored scales; fringe long at tornus, concolorous; Hindwing lanceolate, reflective white scales appearing brown like mica, fringe long, pale yellow; underside fore wing disc and cell light brown, otherwise wing pale yellow; fringe long at tornus, pale yellow; underside hind wing costa light brown, otherwise whitish; fringe long, pale yellow/whitish. Abdomen: scales appressed, pale yellow. T8 (Fig. 2d) shield-shaped, distally narrowed to a rounded apex; lateral processes heavily sclerotized, directed lateral posteriorly, elbow-like. Male genitalia (5 preparations examined, Figs 2a–c): anterior part of tegumen broadly hood-shaped in lateral aspect, left and right sides connected dorso-anteriorly by narrow sclerotized region, anterior dorsal margin broadly V-shaped, tegumen posteriorly divided at articulation with valves; juxta slopes ventrally from anterior end to posterior end; aedeagus bulbous at anterior end; vinculum appears like human hip bones; posterior end of socii slightly upturned and divergent, appearing in lateral aspect “horn-like,” convex dorsally, with broadly angled lobe directed ventrally at midpoint, setose, setae directed anteriorly; gnathos proximal arms directed posteriorly and broadly curved 90° ̊ventrally; valvae elongate, bases widened dorsally and ventrally, distally convergent and narrowed, bent dorsally 90°̊ beginning at 3/5 length, apex slightly toothed, setose on dorsal surface, and anterior surface when the apices are vertical.

  • Adult female (Fig 1b): Habitus nearly identical to male. Forewing: length 6.6 mm, n = 1. Abdomen (Fig 4c): S7 slightly elongate-rectangular with rounded posterior angles, anterior margin with distinct crescentic invagination and transverse median unmelanized zone, posteriorly with elongate spoon-shaped unmelanized zone and small, protruding, tongue-like membranous appendix. T7 slightly elongate-rectangular with squarish posterior angles, surface evenly melanized. Female genitalia (1 preparation examined, Fig. 4a–b): ovipositor about 0.2× length of abdominal segments 1–7; papillae anales densely setose, apically notched, with lateral portion around attachment of posterior apophysis slightly sclerotized; anterior and posterior apophyses each 0.3× length of T8; sterigma elongate, about as long as T8, parallel-sided, apex notched, with 2–3 setae, laterodistal portion finely spiculate, antero-lateral apodemes present but somewhat indistinct; ostium bursae subapical on sterigma; ductus bursae with sclerotized, transversely wrinkled antrum extended beyond anterior margin of S8, inception in middle of left side of corpus bursae; corpus bursae elongate-ovoid, tapered caudad of inception of ductus bursae;

  • Remarks. The new species is placed in the genus Arotrura based on the structure of the male and female genitalia, especially the enlarged male tergum 8 with anterolateral extensions fused alongside the tegumen and wishbone-like gnathos, and female sternum 7 with a small, tongue-like, protruding membranous lobe. The distally fused socii with an apically bihorned profile, slender aedeagus with bulbous base, valvae with “shouldered” bases in male genitalia, and proboscislike sterigma with antero-lateral apodemes and apical setae in female genitalia place it in the A. divaricata species group as defined by Landry (1991). Individual specimens of A. landryorum have some widely scattered gypsum-colored scales on the fore wing.

    DNA barcoding of the type series (BOLD:ACS7411) also showed the new species to be distinct from 37 other barcoded species of Arotrura (J.-F. Landry, unpublished data 2015; see Details of the barcoding protocol are as presented in Landry et al. (2013). A more extensive DNA barcode analysis of this and other Arotrura species occurring at WSNM will be presented in a subsequent paper.

  • Distribution and biology. Arotrura landryorum occurs in White Sands National Monument, Otero County, New Mexico (figs 6a, 6b, and 6c). The immature stages and host plant are unknown.

  • Etymology. The specific name of this species, landryorum, a noun in the genitive case, recognizes the contributions of Jean-François with support of his spouse, Marie Landry, to the study of Lepidoptera. Jean-François Landry and I share a personal and professional relationship going back to the early 1980s. Marie Landry, ever-supportive of Jean-François, and his constant companion in pursuit of lepidopterological studies, was a gracious hostess when I visited their home. I am pleased to recognize Jean-François and Marie Landry.

  • Fig. 2–3.

    Arotrura male genitalia and 8th abdominal tergite (T8); 2a, A. landryorum male genitalia, dorsal view [slide USNM130252, paratype]; 2b, A. landryorum male genitalia, lateral view [slide USNM130266, holotype]; 2c, close up of uncus-socii in dorsal view [USNM130252, paratype]; 2d, A. landryorum male abdominal T8 [slide USNM130252, paratype]; 3a, A. divaricata male genitalia dorsal view [slide MIC6995]; 3b, A. divaricata male genitalia, lateral view [slide MIC6995]; 3c, close up of uncus-socii in dorsal view [slide MIC6995]; 3d, A. divaricata male abdominal T8 [slide MIC6995].


    Fig. 4–5.

    Arotrura female genitalia and 7th abdominal segment; 4a, A. landryorum [slide USNM130264, paratype]; 4b, A. landryorum, close up of S8 and sterigma [slide USNM130264]; 4c, A. landryorum 7th abdominal segment, 5a, A. divaricata [slide MIC6996, bursa partly broken]; 5b, A. divaricata, close up of S8 and sterigma [slide MIC6996]. 5c, A. divaricata 7th abdominal segment


    Fig. 6.

    Arotrura landryorum type locality, habitats, and distribution; 6a, type locality of A. landryorum; 6b, habitat of paratypes of A. landryorum; 6c, distribution of A. landryorum.



    Most species of Arotrura in North America are undescribed. Landry (1991) listed 11 described species and mentioned 59 undescribed species of this genus, thus a comparison of A. landryorum to its congeners is limited. Arotrura landryorum is not one of the undescribed species previously seen by Landry.

    The primary purposes of the 10-year study at White Sands National Monument were to compile an inventory of moths, and describe new species in habitats within and immediately adjacent to the white gypsum dunes in the Monument. White Sands National Monument preserves 284.9 km2 (110 square miles), about 40%, of the world's largest snow-white gypsum dune field. The remainder of the 275 square miles dune field is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army via the White Sands Missile Range. The dune field is located in the northern Chihuahuan Desert in southern New Mexico's Tularosa Basin (Schneider-Hector, 1993). A complete description of the study site and some of its unique biological resources is in Metzler et al. (2009). Stroud (1950) reported twenty species of Lepidoptera from the Monument, all of them representing typical fauna of the region. In this survey during the period 9 February 2007 through 4 December 2015, more than 650 named species (unpublished data) of described Lepidoptera were recorded from the Monument. Additionally, twelve new species were so far described on the basis of moths discovered during this study at White Sands National Monument (Metzler 2014, Metzler 2016; Metzler et al. 2009, 2010; Metzler & Forbes 2011a, 2011b, 2011c, 2012; Metzler & Lightfoot 2014, Wright 2012, 2014, Wright & Gilligan 2015).

    The lack of lepidopteran specimens seen until now can probably be attributed to the dearth of insect collecting in the gypsum dunes ecosystem in New Mexico because the dunes were private property, and are now under the control of the U.S. National Park Service and the U.S. Army.


    It is my recently formed opinion, that the spouses of lepidopterists, the ones who maintain the home-front and provide physical and moral support to the lepidopterist in the family, the ones who frequently prepare the meals, do the laundry, and perform the bulk of the childcare, do not receive enough recognition for their support. I am pleased to recognize Marie along with Jean-François in the name of this moth.

    The Western National Parks Association, Tucson, Arizona contributed funding for travel and logistics for the study of Lepidoptera at White Sands National Monument. I am especially grateful for the financial support. . The El Paso Zoo Conservation Committee, El Paso, Texas, and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Terrestrial Invertebrate Taxon Advisory Group (TITAG), Seattle, Washington also contributed small grants. Their commitment to this research is rewarding. Jean-François Landry was very helpful with the identification and diagnosis of this and other new species I found in the Monument, and assisted with genitalia dissections, imaging, and DNA barcoding. Several executives, David Bustos, Marie Frias-Sauter, Hildy Reiser, Kevin R. Schneider, Cliff Spencer, Diane White, and Becky Burghart from the National Park Service were instrumental in arranging and promoting this study of the moths. I single out David Bustos, recipient of the U.S. National Park Service's 2014 Director's Trish Patterson Student Conservation Association Award for Natural Resource Management in a Small Park, for his enthusiastic support and for getting things done.

    The National Park Service granted permits to take samples of moths and provided access to areas normally closed to the public. Michigan State University's A.J. Cook Arthropod Research Collection and the University of New Mexico's Museum of Southwestern Biology agreed to be repositories for the specimens collected during the study. Voucher specimens are also deposited in the U.S. National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian).

    Representatives from research collections and other institutions provided insect pins, alcohol, identification services, research consultation, and storage space for specimens collected leading to discovery and naming of this species. I thank the following persons for offering support from their respective institutions: Kelly B. Miller, Sandra L. Brantley, and David C. Lightfoot (University of New Mexico), Frederick W. Stehr, Anthony I. Cognato, and Gary L. Parsons (Michigan State University), J. Donald Lafontaine, Jean-François Landry, Vazrick Nazari, and B. Christian Schmidt (Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids, and Nematodes), Larry Berger (Ohio Department of Agriculture), and David Adamski, John W. Brown, Mark E. Metz, David G. Furth, Patricia Gentili-Poole, and M. Alma Solis (United States National Museum of Natural History). David Adamski visited me in June 2007 to help collect the first few specimens in the type series. Patricia A. Metzler faithfully assisted me on many aspects of this study, and she provided funding. I thank Jean-François Landry, Vazrick Nazari and Kari Nupponen for reading the paper and offering valuable suggestions.

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    Eric H. Metzler "The Lepidoptera of White Sands National Monument, Otero County, New Mexico, USA 11. A New Species of Arotrura Walsingham 1888 (Scythrididae), Another Iconic Species from the Monument," The Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 70(3), 194-200, (1 August 2016).
    Received: 5 January 2016; Accepted: 4 April 2016; Published: 1 August 2016
    biological diversity
    Tularosa Basin
    U.S. Army
    U.S. National Park Service
    white gypsum dunes
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