Phylogenetic Systematics, Evolution and Taxonomy of the Neotropical earless mantids (Insecta: Mantodea)

Event Details

October 12, 2012
2:00 pm


Julio Rivera, Appraisal Seminar


The ecologically diverse and charismatic predatory insect group, Mantodea (praying mantises), is comprised of ca. 2400 described species distributed mainly in tropical and subtropical habitats around the globe. Notwithstanding the long tradition of ecological, behavioral, and physiological research on the group, they have historically received limited taxonomic attention and progress is threatened by a decline in active systematists. Recent preliminary phylogenetic studies provide strong evidence that existing morphology-based classifications do not reflect phylogenetic relationships. This is likely due to the repeated convergence of ecomorphological features linked to specific life strategies. The historical reliance on such characters produced inconsistent higher-level classifications, indirectly affecting research on other aspects of praying mantids biology and ecology. Consequently, the systematics of the entire group is in need of a thorough re-evaluation. For my PhD research I will use phylogenetic methods to bridge several gaps in Mantodea knowledge, especially related to systematics and taxonomy. At the same time I will evaluate historical trends in morphological evolution and their effects on phenotypic disparity in the diversification of the group. I am targeting a Neotropical mantodean lineage known as html5-dom-document-internal-entity1-quot-endearless mantidshtml5-dom-document-internal-entity1-quot-end, an ecologically diverse clade that diverged early in mantodean evolution. This clade represents a test case of the extensive array of morphological adaptations (including crypsis), hunting modes and life history strategies exhibited in other mantodean lines. Accordingly, this research provides a model for future revisions of other equally diverse mantodean lineages using a total evidence approach. This study represents an important step forward in modernizing the systematics of a long neglected insect order, and will establish a preliminary foundation from which to address broader questions in ecology and evolutionary biology using praying mantids as model organisms.

Host: Doug Currie