Phylogenetic utility of the nuclear gene dopa decarboxylase in noctuoid moths (Insecta: Lepidoptera: Noctuoidea)
Phylogenetic utility for the nuclear gene encoding dopa decarboxylase (DDC), little used in systematics, was recently demonstrated within the noctuid moth subfamily Heliothinae. Here we extend the test of the utility of a 709-bp DDC fragment to deeper levels, analyzing 49 species representing major groups across the superfamily Noctuoidea. Parsimony, distance, and maximum-likelihood analyses recover all or nearly all of a set of “test clades” supported by clear morphological synapomorphies, spanning a wide range of taxonomic levels. DDC also upholds a recent proposal that the Noctuidae are paraphyletic. Nt3 contributes a majority of the signal and recovers the basal split between Notodontidae and all other noctuoids, despite a plateau of nt3 divergence at this level. However, nonsynonymous changes also support groups at all levels, and in contrast to nt3, amino acid divergence shows no plateau. The utility of DDC promises to extend back to the early Tertiary and Cretaceous, a time span for which few suitable genes have been identified.