The bee beetles' evolution

Project Details


Every beetle-scientist knows them, yet little to nothing is known on their evolution. The subject of the proposed project are beetles of the genus Trichodes (Cleridae), which display a bright aposematic colouration. Although they are frequently collected, no attempt was ever made to investigate phylogenetic relationships of a representative proportion of their 93 species. At the same time the genus’ distribution spans major parts of the ancient Gondwanan continents and has its centre of diversity in the Middle East, making it an ideal model system to answer biogeographical questions on Mesozoic and the last glacial time periods. The aposematic colouration of the non-poisonous beetles furthermore poses questions about a mimicry-system with co-occurring poisonous blister-beetles of the genus Mylabris (Meloidae).
We will for the first time infer a phylogenetic hypothesis of Trichodes species, focusing on the utilisation of dry collection material. The phylogenetic hypothesis will form the framework for answering subsequent questions. We ask if the species richness of the Middle East exists, because it is at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa, or because of being an area of origin and long-term survival of organisms. Multiple Trichodes species that occur in the Balkan and Anatolian region enable us to examine disputed glacial refuge areas. Finally, the inferred phylogeny, in concert with a recently published phylogeny of Mylabris, allows testing for a potential mimicry system between Trichodes and Mylabris species.
We will use targeted sequence capturing on dry insect collections. We will employ scalable algorithms like IQ-TREE and MCMCtree for phylogenetic inference and divergence time dating based on ca. 4000 genes. Biogeographic hypotheses will mainly be tested in the sophisticated BioGeoBEARS framework. The potential mimicry relationship will be tested by qualitative and quantitative approaches.
Level of innovation
Advances in gaining DNA data from dry collections will enable molecular studies of a variety of insects that were so far limited by sampling issues. The resulting phylogeny will be the first hypothesis of species relationships in Trichodes and enable multiple subsequent studies. An innovation are 3D geometric morphometric measurements based on photogrammetry, which improve the measurement precision of voluminous objects dramatically. To our knowledge, the established workflow is novel and will have a variety of applications beyond the project.
Effective start/end date2/01/231/02/25