A high-quality, long-read genome assembly of the whitelined sphinx moth (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae: Hyles lineata) shows highly conserved melanin synthesis pathway genes

G3 (Bethesda). 2023 Jun 1;13(6):jkad090. doi: 10.1093/g3journal/jkad090.


The sphinx moth genus Hyles comprises 29 described species inhabiting all continents except Antarctica. The genus diverged relatively recently (40-25 MYA), arising in the Americas and rapidly establishing a cosmopolitan distribution. The whitelined sphinx moth, Hyles lineata, represents the oldest extant lineage of this group and is one of the most widespread and abundant sphinx moths in North America. Hyles lineata exhibits the large body size and adept flight control characteristic of the sphinx moth family (Sphingidae), but it is unique in displaying extreme larval color variation and broad host plant use. These traits, in combination with its broad distribution and high relative abundance within its range, have made H. lineata a model organism for studying phenotypic plasticity, plant-herbivore interactions, physiological ecology, and flight control. Despite being one of the most well-studied sphinx moths, little data exist on genetic variation or regulation of gene expression. Here, we report a high-quality genome showing high contiguity (N50 of 14.2 Mb) and completeness (98.2% of Lepidoptera BUSCO genes), an important first characterization to facilitate such studies. We also annotate the core melanin synthesis pathway genes and confirm that they have high sequence conservation with other moths and are most similar to those of another, well-characterized sphinx moth, the tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta).

Keywords: Hyles lineata; Lepidoptera; genome assembly; melanin synthesis genes; whitelined sphinx.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Genome
  • Larva / genetics
  • Larva / metabolism
  • Melanins* / genetics
  • Moths*
  • Secondary Metabolism


  • Melanins

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.95x69p8q0