Feeding ecology of an endangered Australian moth

Anett Richter, Will Osborne (PI) & Michael Traugott (co-PI)

 

Assessing the dietary choices in endangered species is of particular interest for the development of sound conservation strategies. The Golden Sun Moth (Synemon plana) is a critically endangered moth with restricted distribution in South Eastern Australia. As adult, the day flying moths lack functional mouthparts. Therefore, the species feeding is restricted to the larvae stage below the surface. Current understanding, based on observations of Golden Sun Moth pupal cases near grass tussocks, is that the species is a dietary specialist feeding exclusively on native Wallaby grasses (Austrodanthonia spp.) and other native grasses such as Kangaroo grass (Themeda spp.) and Spear grasses (Austrostipa spp.). However, the moths have also been found in grasslands infested with exotic weeds. This has led to the hypothesis that Golden Sun Moths utilises a broader range of food plants, including a non-native weed of national significance (Chilean needle grass). This collaborative project between the Institute of Applied Ecology at the University of Canberra (Australia) and the Institute of Ecology of the University of Innsbruck (Austria) aims to elucidate the range of potential food plants utilised by S. plana using molecular techniques and stable isotope analysis. The outcomes of this study will fill important gaps in the feeding ecology of this species with significant implications on future conservation and management strategies.

 

Funding:
CIP Commercial & Industrial Property Pty Ltd, Melbourne (Victoria, Australia)
Department of Sustainability and Environment (Victoria, Australia)

 

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