Aculea = small spines on the wing which raise overlying scales to give a coarse appearance
Aedeagus = tube-like organ of the male genitalia laying between the valves, often adorned with spines and useful to in determining the species
Ampula = a process rising from the sacculus
Amselma (plural 'amselmata') = secondary sexual scale tufts on the thorax (Niculescu (1977))
Androconial Scales = thick, modified scales present in the fringe of some moth species
Anellus = membranous covering of the aedeagus
Antemedian = before the middle, ie a fascia, marking or feature before the middle
Antemedial Spot = orbicular stigma
Antennae = formed of scape, pedicel and flagellum
Antrum = a chamber or cavity formed from part of the ostium in some species
Apex, apice, apical, apically = furthest point from the body or point of attachment, tip of the wing between the costa and termen
Apical Streak or Spot = a wedge- or dash-shaped marking extending from the apex of the wing; a spot or patch of scale at the apex
Appendix bursae = a secondary swelling attached to the bursa copulatrix (which is then called the corpus bursa)
Autapomorphic characters = are derived characters that are unique to an end group (in our model, perhaps a bunch of twigs). Autapomorphic characters are found in only one member of the group and define that group. They are never shared by other groups. The "group" can be, for example, a family, genus or even an individual species. When you instantly recognise a long-lost relative from his distinctive nose, you are using an autapomorphic character peculiar to your family. It is a derived character - from a common ancestor, but no other family has it (though to be a true autapomorphy then ALL members of your family must possess it). Trace the tree back far enough and you will find the one individual that first demonstrated that character. If you find someone else who has it then they MUST be related - if they do not have it they are not part of your group though they may be related further down the tree - look for synapomorphies). [Colin Plant]
basally, basad = closest to the body; towards the body or point of attachment.
Basal patch = a marking on a wing closest to the thorax
Basal Streak = a wedge- or dash-shaped marking extending from the thorax. “Shoulder-knot”.
Bursa copulatrix = in the female genitalia, the bag-like structure connected to the ductus bursa, used to store sperm. It is often adorned with spines and useful in determining the identification of a species
Caudal = ‘tail’, towards the tail end
Cell = an area between two main veins in the wing extending from the thorax to just beyond the middle of the wing. The part furthest from the thorax is called the disc, where there are sometimes circular or oval markings, such as the reniform stigma.
Chaetosema = a group of sensory hairs on the head, near the ocellus
Cilia, cilium, fringe = scale or scales resembling hairs, a row of which usually border the wings, or adorn the antennae or other organs
Claspers = valves in the male genitalia, or last pair of prolegs in larva
Clavus = a process arising from the sacculus of the male. See Mesapamea (for example)
Collar (crown) = scales at the rear part of the head
Compound eye = these may be ‘clean’ or have a scattering of hairs or lashes
Coremata = specialised structure on the underside of the male abdomen. They have different origins, so are not homologous, and the term 'coremata' has been applied to a wide range of scent brushes or hair pencils
Corpus bursae = bursa copulatrix, when an appendix busae is present
Costa, costal, costad = forward or leading edge. Of the wing, between the body and termen
Costal Blotch = patch of scales on the costa
Coxa = top part of a leg between the thorax and trochanter
Cremaster = structure on the anal end of a pupa, usually consisting of a number of bristles or hooks used to anchor the pupa to silk
Crenulate or Crenate = having a notched or indented edge where the troughs are wider than the tips
Crochets = tiny hooks and spines found on larva’s prolegs, used for gripping
Crown = collar
Cubital Pecten = a row of hair-like scales on the hindwing near the base, arising from the cubital vein
Cucullus = in male genitalia, the end of the valva, often necked and rounded and bearing spines
Cuiller = finger-like process rising from base of male valva, especially Agonopterix sp.
Culcita = "among pyralid workers the term ‘culcita’ is being phased out. Horak (1997. Invertebrate Taxonomy 11, 333-421) states: “Secondary sexual scale tufts on the thorax have been termed ‘amselma’ (plural ‘amselmata’) by Niculescu (1977) and those on the 8th segment ‘culcita’ by Amsel (1956), but as such names imply homology they are not in common usage. The term ‘scale complex’ is applied to the sclerotised frame and the associated scale tufts of the 8th abdominal segment”. Later, Simonsen & Roe (2009. Zoologischer Anzeiger) recommend using the term ‘composite scale brushes’. I would suggest that this is adopted." [Thanks to Martin Honey for this]
Dentate = (of a line or edge) toothed or srtongly serrated
Disc = part of the cell furthest from the thorax, where there are sometimes circular or oval markings, such as the reniform stigma
Discal Spot = marking or markings on the wing at the disc.
Disco-cellular Spot = discal spot
Distal distally, distad = away from the body or point of attachment
Diverticulum = A narrowing of the bursa copulatrix leading to an additional swelling
Dorsal, dorsally, dorsad = the upperside (of the abdomen) or towards the upperside of a structure
Dorsal Blotch = patch of scales on the dorsum of the wing
Dorsum = rear or trailing edge (of the wing), between the body and tornus
Ductus seminalis = duct between the bursa copulatrix and bulla seminalis
Editum = (Pierce) a small, finely spined prominence below the ampulla, on the costal side.
Emarginate = having a notch in an edge
Epiphysis = modified spine on the foreleg tibia which acts as a grooming organ
Eye-cap = in microlepidoptera a modified scape forming a dish- or fan-shaped start to the antennae. Its presence or absence is a good diagnostic clue
Falcate = having a hooked tip
Femur = third segment of the leg
Fibula = a buckle or clasp
Flagellum = third part of the antennae and may be simple or be clothed in hair-like scales
Frenulum = a stout hair or hairs at the base of the costa of the hindwing, which links it to the forewing.
Fringe – (cilia) the row of hair-like scales bordering the wing
Frons = front part of the head (face)
Fulvous = reddish brown, tawny
Gnathos = in male genitalia, a hardened part of the vinculum near the uncus, which supports the anal tube
Hamus = sclerotised ‘hook’ on the wing in some male pyralids. See Pyraloidea 1 (p.9).
Harpe = in male genitalia, the hardened clasping organ on the inner face of the valva
Haustellum (proboscis) = ‘tongue’, may be short, long, naked or clothed with scales
Interspaces = patches of scales between strigulae
Introitus vaginae = part of the ductus bursae attached to the ostium
Juxta = in male genitalia, a hardened plate-like structure between the valves which supports the aedegus
Labial palps = organs arising from just below the compound eye, usually with three segments and clothed with scales. Together with the maxillary palps, their layout and build can give clues to family identification
Lamella antevaginalis = a hardened plate partially surrounding the ostium
Lamella postvaginalis = a hardened plate partially surrounding the ostium
Maxillary palps = organs arising from just in front of the labial palps, sometimes conspicuous, sometimes apparently absent, usually clothed with scales and sometimes folded in the more primitive families, partially obscuring the eye. Together with the labial palps, their layout and build can give clues to family identification
Medial medially, median = middle; the central area (medio-distal = away, more distant from, the middle)
Median = medial, middle
Mesothorax = central segment of the thorax
Metothorax = last segment of the thorax
Micropyle = the central opening of the egg
Ocellus = 1/ markings, usually spots or short dashes, in an area of the wing near the tornus known as the spculum. 2/ light-sensitive organs situated above the compound eye
Oligophagous = having a limited range of food
Orbicular Stigma = a marking laying between the reniform stigma and the thorax, usually circular in shape
Ostial Plate = a hardened plate surrounding the ostium
Ostium = in female genitalia, the external opening
Palps = organs on the head of the adult. See Labial and Maxillary palps
Pectin = tuft of scales sometimes present on the scape, sometimes useful as a diagnostic feature
= second part of the antennae, between the scape and flagellum
Pollex (Razowski) = the small 'turret' between the bristle and the valva, a sort of hardened extension
Polyphagous = having a wide range of food
Porrect = pointing straight forward
Post-median = beyond the middle, ie a fascia, marking or feature beyond the middle
Pre – before, ie pre-apical spot lies before the apical spot
Proboscis = haustellum, the ‘tongue’
Prolegs = ‘false’ legs on middle and terminal segments of a larva’s abdomen
Prothorax = first segment of the thorax
Proximal = towards the body or point of attachment
Pulvinus (Razowski) = a pronounced group of hair-like setae on the valva
Reniform Stigma = an oval or kidney-shaped mark on the forewing at the disc
Reticulate = a fine, speckled pattern
Saccus = in male genitalia, the lowest part of the vinculum
Sacculus = in male genitalia, dominant part of the base of the valva, often adorned with spines
Scale-tooth = a tuft or tufts of scales in the cilia. These give a distinctive shape to resting prominent moths and to members of the Epermeniidae, and are also a feature of the plume moths
Scape = first part of the antennae, which may be simple, have a row of bristles forming a pecten, or be expanded to form an eyecap
Sclerite = hardened part of the body forming a plate
Scobinate = with a roughened surface, as though rasped
Scutulum ('shield') ?descriptive, two references found:
1/ a small triangular wedge visible on the back part of the sterigma (
MBGBI volume 4 (2) figure 27: f
and p.106 couplet 6(4) in females);
2/ refers to the dorsal blotch on the forewing (
The scientific names of the British Lepidoptera by
A.M. Emmet, p.117 under 1184)
Seta = stiff hair or bristle
Sinuate = having a gentle ‘s’-shaped curve or curves
Socius = paired extensions of the vinculum
Speculum = an area of the forewing near the tornus, especially evident in the tortrix moths where it is usually oval in shape, outlined by metallic-blue scales, and containing dark dashes or spots
Spiracle = breathing pores along the body
Spur = spine found on the legs, sometimes modified into a grooming organ (Epiphysis)
Sternum = ventral part of the body
Stria – fine streak or line. Sometimes these mark as outlines the positions of other features such as fascia.
Strigula/Strigulae = fine marking(s) on the costa or dorsum of the forewing
Strigulate = covered with fine streaks
Sub-basal = near the base of the wing, markings or a fascia not connected to the base of the wing but close to it.
Sub-terminal = just inside the termen: a fascia, line or other features which are near the termen but are further towards the base or body
Synapomorphic characters = are shared characters that define a GROUP of species with a common ancestor. The character MUST have been derived from that common ancestor (i.e., not acquired later). At a very simple level, thepossession of scales is a synapomorphic character of the Lepidoptera - they ALL have it and they originated with the first "Proto Lep". Each group will have its own synapomorphic characters that have been derived from a branch
of the tree, but they will also share synapomorphies with bigger branches nearer the trunk of the tree. Synapomorphies are the basis of animal and plant classification - they are grouped to form "clades" and the study of the structure of clades and the relationship between them is called "cladistics". [
Colin Plant]
Tarsus = segments of the leg between the tibia and claws
Tegula = a flat plate between the thorax and forewing, forming a ‘shoulder’
Tergite = segment of abdomen
Termen, terminal, terminally = outer edge of wing, often carrying the fringe or cilia
Terminal = termen
Tibia = fourth part of the leg
Tornal Spot = a patch of scale at the tornus
Tornal Streak = a wedge- or dash-like mark extending from the tornus
Tornus, tornal = at the junction of the termen and dorsum
Trochanter = part of the leg between the coxa and femur
Truncate = has a squared-off ending
Uncus = top part of the vinculum, sometimes forming a large hooked or curved structure
Valva, valvae or informally ‘valves’ = the large clasping parts of the male genitalia
Ventral, ventrally = the underside, usually relating to the abdomen
Vertex = area between antennae and collar
Vinculum = the large central ring-like part of the male genitalia

Morphology Index


If you need to research a word not listed below do please let me have the results. If old terms have been replaced by newer ones, I’d like those as well. The idea is to only have to struggle once!