2005-2007 Phylogeny, Biogeography, and Evolution of Life History Traits in Southeast Asian Hypsauchenine Treehoppers (Hemiptera: Membracidae). (NSC 93WFD0105096)


The faunal and floral diversity of Malay Archipelago and adjacent areas is of long-standing interest to biologists ever since Wallace proposed a shape biogeographical division separating two distinct biological zones by deep-water channels. However, few modern biogeographers or systematists have used biogeography or molecular phylogenetics methods to test Wallace’ hypothesis and to investigate the biogeography of biota whose distribution spans this interface and nearby areas. This proposed project will test the general hypothesis that phylogeographic relationships of East Asian Hypsauchenine treehoppers (Insecta: Hemiptera: Membracidae) are strongly influenced by ancient aquatic barrier. We will first develop morphological and molecular data sets (nuclear, mitochondrial and microsatellite DNA) to reconstruct the phylogeny and genealogy, population structure, and historical demography of the tribe Hypsaucheniini. We will then use the estimated phylogenies and population genetics to analyze and interpret the biogeographic patterns of these treehoppers.

In addition to interesting biogeographic distribution, members of Hypsauchenine treehoppers exhibit variation in social behavior ranging from solitary individuals, nymphal or adult aggregations to highly developed maternal care with parent-offspring communication. The historical origins of maternal care and associated life history traits (ant mutualism etc.) in these treehoppers will be addressed through both field studies and comparative phylogenetic analyses. We will analyze behavioral and life history characteristics of these treehoppers, determine the number of origins/losses and directionality of character changes, and test their correlations in a phylogenetic context. Our proposed project will represent the first-ever study to quantitatively test for an association between maternal care and ant mutualism. Current views of how ecology influences the evolution of insect sociality emphasize the importance of predation and food resources. We hope the study will not only shed light on the evolution of maternal care in Hypsauchenine treehoppers, but will provide a new dimension (ant mutualism) to the importance of ecology for social evolution in general.

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