Agathiphaga - especially A. vitiensis - have been very important for our understanding of early Lepidoptera evolution.

The Kauri moths seem to be a ‘morphological link’ between Lepidoptera and their closest relatives, the caddis-flies.

Many aspects of the Kauri moths’ morphology are primitive including:

  • head morphology - especially the mouthparts
  • wing venation
  • male genitalia

These aspects are so primitive that Kauri moths are considered 'living fossils' - they give us a clear idea of what the earliest Lepidoptera looked like.

In other aspects, however, the Kauri moths are so specialised they do not resemble any other known Lepidoptera or caddis fly (living or extinct). Specialised features include:

  • wing vestiture
  • pre-genitalia abdomen
  • musculature of the female terminal abdomen

Detailed morphological and anatomical studies of Kauri moths (particularly A. vitiensis), along with comparisons to other Lepidoptera and caddis-flies, have helped scientists understand Lepidoptera evolution better. This includes evolution of the lineage that gave rise to both caddis flies and Lepidoptera.

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