Psyllid systematics and phylogenomics

Metrosideros-feeding psyllid nymphs from the Hawaiian Islands © DM Percy

Principal Investigator

Dr Diana Percy

Project summary

  • Focus: Studying the psyllid evolutionary tree to determine the relationships between psyllids and their host plants

We are studying the psyllid evolutionary tree, digitising our collections and determining the relationships between psyllids and their host plants.

Psyllid phylogenomics

We aim to provide a robust and well supported phylogenetic hypothesis for the evolution of the Psylloidea.

Research questions
  • Can we resolve the phylogeny of the Psylloidea using mitogenomics?
  • Can exon capture methods identify closely related species and separate populations within islands?
  • What role do psyllids play in community assemblies of arthropods?
  • next-generation DNA and RNA sequencing techniques
  • mitogenomics
  • transcriptomics
  • anchored enrichment
  • exon capture methods

Digitising and georeferencing the psyllid collections

We are imaging, digitising, transcribing, and georeferencing the psyllid collections. We aim to provide data for mapping and niche modelling, which will be used to predict the future ranges of insects and their host plants.

The first phase of this effort is focused on genera that include taxa that feed on Solanaceae host plants.

Using mapped crop wild relatives of Solanaceae, we will assess the distribution and taxonomic diversity of the psyllid fauna associated with these plants.

The primary psyllid pests of tomatoes and potatoes are Bactericera cockerelli and Russelliana solanicola, but other psyllid taxa feed on various host plants in at least eight genera within the Solanales.

This project is part of the Museum initiative on crop and pest wild relatives.

Psyllid wing morphometrics

We are developing semi-automated identification systems for the wider community using information on wing shape and wing venation.

We are investigating traditional landmark approaches to wing morphometrics and digital image analysis. We are doing this on a regional basis for the UK psyllid fauna and for species in a radiating lineage of closely related island psyllids.

Systematics of island psyllids

We are focusing on species discovery and taxonomy, including systematic revisions of the psyllid fauna of the Hawaiian Islands and other Pacific islands.

One of the triozid psyllid lineages in the Hawaiian Islands has diversified on the host plant Metrosideros polymorpha. These psyllids have undergone a complex radiation in the Hawaiian Islands with free-living and galling psyllids (those that cause abnormal plant growths). The gall type is diverse, constituting an extended phenotype central to the radiation.

Galling represents a perturbation of development both in developmental time (gall formation in plant tissue) and in evolutionary time (shifts to galling, shifts between gall types). Morphological and molecular methods are being applied to understand how these shifts are implicated in speciation.

Museum staff

External collaborators

  • Prof Rosemary GillespieProf George RoderickProf John HarteDr Neo MartinezDr Patrick O’GradyDr Rasmus NielsenDr Dan Rabosky
    UC Berkeley
  • Dr Daniel Gruner
    University of Maryland
  • Dr Kerry Shaw
    Cornell University
  • Dr Donald Price
    University Hawaii
  • Dr Kevin Johnson
    University of Illinois
  • Dr Nate Hardy
    Auburn University

Biodiversity research

We are creating molecular and digital tools to explore undiscovered biodiversity

Insect research

Our scientists are conserving and investigating the Museum's collections to help with cutting edge research

Entomology collections

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