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Combining molecular and morphological approaches to differentiate the pest Costelytra zealandica (White) (Coleoptera: Scarabeidae: Melolonthinae) from the non-pest Costelytra brunneum (Broun) at the larval stage
The frequently strong morphological similarities that exist between the larvae of congeneric scarab beetles are likely to lead to misidentification of field-collected specimens of sympatric species. This is the case for the New Zealand endemic pasture pest Costelytra zealandica (White, 1846) (Scarabaeidae: Melolonthinae) and the closely related non-pest species C. brunneum (Broun, 1880), where a taxonomic key is only available for the first of them and does not allow the distinction between the two species. Mistaken identification and sampling of such fundamentally different organisms during ecological and / or behavioural studies could to lead to invalid interpretations and misinformed decisions in the establishment of pest control programmes. Molecular-based species identification is nowadays recognised as an effective way.