Nepticulidae is a family of very small moths with a worldwide distribution. They are characterised by eyecaps over the eyes (see also Opostegidae, Bucculatricidae, Lyonetiidae). These pigmy moths or midget moths, as they are commonly known, include the smallest of all living moths, with a wingspan that can be as little as 3 mm. in the case of the European Pigmy Sorrel Moth, but more usually 3.5–10 mm. The wings of adult moths are narrow and lanceolate, sometimes with metallic markings, and with the venation very simplified compared to most other moths.
The minute larvae usually are leaf miners but some species also mine seeds or bark of trees. Much is known about their host plants. The Pectinivalvinae, characterised by a "pectinifer" on the valve of the male genitalia, are endemic to Australia, where they mine the leaves of the tree families Myrtaceae (Scoble, 1983) or Cunoniaceae (Eucryphiaceae), and Elaeocarpaceae (Hoare, 2000). This Australian group probably constitutes the sister group of other pigmy moths (the subfamily Nepticulinae), which is distributed across the World except Antarctica (Davis, 1999). Many species undoubtedly await description and the study of some tropical faunas is just commencing (Puplesis et al., 2002).
Typical nepticulid moth leaf mines referable to the genera Stigmella and Ectoedemia are known from mid-Cretaceous fossils around 97 million years old (Labandeira et al., 1994; Grimaldi and Engel, 2005: 52).
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- Davis, D.R. (1999). The Monotrysian Heteroneura. Ch. 6, pp. 65–90 in Kristensen, N.P. (Ed.). Lepidoptera, Moths and Butterflies. Volume 1: Evolution, Systematics, and Biogeography. Handbuch der Zoologie. Eine Naturgeschichte der Stämme des Tierreiches / Handbook of Zoology. A Natural History of the phyla of the Animal Kingdom. Band / Volume IV Arthropoda: Insecta Teilband / Part 35: 491 pp. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, New York.
- Hoare, R.J.B. (2000). A new genus of primitive Nepticulidae (Lepidoptera) from eastern Australia, with a revised diagnosis of nepticulid subfamilies. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 128(3): 289–317.
- Labandeira, C.C., Dilcher, D.L., Davis, D.R. and Wagner, D.L. 1994. Ninety-Seven Million Years of Angiosperm-Insect Association: Paleobiological Insights into the Meaning of Coevolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 91(25): 12278–12282. pdf
- Puplesis, R., Diskus, A., Robinson, G.S. and Onore, G. (2002). A review and checklist of the Neotropical Nepticulidae (Lepidoptera). Bulletin of The Natural History Museum. Entomology Series, 71: 59–76.
- Scoble, M.J. (1983). A revised cladistic classification of the Nepticulidae (Lepidoptera) with descriptions of new taxa mainly from South Africa. Monographs of the Transvaal Museum.