Illuminating the Lanternfly Tree: Phylogeny of the Planthopper Families Fulgoridae and Dictyopharidae (Insecta: Hemiptera: Fulgoroidea) and their Bacterial Endosymbionts

Project: Research project

Project Details


Lanternflies (order Hemiptera, family Fulgoridae) and their sister-group of planthoppers (family Dictyopharidae) constitute a strikingly diverse and exceedingly charismatic insect group, with some iconic species (such as the 'peanut-headed bug') ubiquitously used to exemplify bizarre insect evolution and tropical insect biodiversity. Together, these insect families include more than 1,000 described species that are distributed around the world (with the highest diversity occurring in the tropics). These insects are exclusively sap-feeding herbivores, and can cause damage to their host-plants. Additionally, the insects harbor, within their guts, multiple species of bacteria that provide essential nutrients to the insects that are not available in the insects' plant-sap diet. Despite the many interesting aspects of these insects, their evolutionary history is virtually unknown. The goal of this project is to reconstruct the evolutionary relationships within this group and to explore co-evolutionary trends between the insects and their bacterial endosymbionts. Analyses will be based on data integrating modern DNA sequencing technology and traditional comparative morphology. Products of this research will include not only the phylogenetic trees of the insects and their endosymbiotic bacteria, but also new internet-accessible tools to aid in the taxonomic identification of included species.

This research will provide an evolutionary framework for integrating other scientific studies conducted on the biology and ecology of individual planthopper species. The identification tools to be developed will be of considerable value to scientists studying these insects. Additionally, the cutting-edge evolutionary analyses carried out through this research will serve as a model for similar studies on other plant and animal groups. This project will provide training for several students at virtually all academic levels, adding to the next generation of experts in systematic entomology.

Effective start/end date2/15/104/30/13


  • National Science Foundation: $474,796.00


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