First Records of the Arctic Moth <i>Gynaephora groenlandica</i> (Wocke) South of the Arctic Circle: A New Alpine Subspecies

  • Isabel C. Barrio
  • B. Christian Schmidt
  • Sydney Cannings
  • David S. Hik
Keywords: glacial refugia, Kluane, Lepidoptera, Lymantriinae, Ogilvie, range extension, relict populations


Two adjacent populations of the Arctic moth Gynaephora groenlandica, a High Arctic endemic species, were found in southwest Yukon, ca. 900 km south of the species’ described distribution. Species identification was based on larval morphology for one population and on larvae rearing and DNA barcoding for the other. All three approaches clearly separated G. groenlandica from the closely related and frequently sympatric G. rossii. These records represent the first reports ofG. groenlandica in alpine environments, and we recognize these populations as a distinct subspecies, G. g. beringiana, on the basis of differences in habitat, geography, wing phenotype, and DNA barcode. Given the limited dispersal ability ofG. groenlandica, these records may represent isolated relict populations. Disjunct populations and new records of other species recently described for the southwest Yukon suggest 1) that this region is understudied and a potential refugium for species characteristic of different biogeographic influences and 2) that this region may be changing considerably in response to recent rapid environmental change, which has influenced species distribution, abundance, and phenology. Our findings, however, might result from a relatively poor description of the arthropod fauna of remote locations; these discoveries should therefore instigate further survey efforts.