Life Sciences Seminar
Sap-suckers of the Tree of Life: how closely are they related to their feeding branches?
Terrestrial Invertebrates, Dept. of Life Sciences, NHM
Wednesday 19 of December 11:00
Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)
Sternorrhyncha comprise four super-families among the most damaging agricultural pests. Furthermore, Coccoidea (scale insects - 8000 species), Aphidoidea (aphids, phylloxerans, and adelgids - 5000 species), Psylloidea (jumping plant-lice - 3800 species) and Aleyrodoidea (whiteflies - 1500 species) are driving ecosystems as primary consumers of phloem sap. Various degrees of insect/plant associations, from strict monophagy to high polyphagy, are observed among them and at different classification levels.
Until now, several assumptions of co- or ‘parallel-’ evolution between the insects and their host-plants have been made, but rarely using a phylogenetic framework to test these hypotheses. Focusing on Psylloidea, I will trace the macroevolution of these phytophagous insects, from fossil proto-homopterans to the extant fauna, based on the evolution of some striking morphological characters.
In parallel, the large-scale analysis of patterns of associations between insects and plants has been made possible using the global datasets compiled and organised in databases such as “Psyl’list” or “White-Files”, originally oriented towards taxonomic information dissemination only. The synthesis of recent taxonomic studies into a revised classification of the Psylloidea offers a framework for further phylogenetic reconstructions, a research basis in the fields of Ecology and Conservation, as well as a management tool for collaborators involved in Integrated Pest Management
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