Pancrustacea

Taxonomy, phylogeny and systematics have been, in the last decades, highly implemented through the use of molecular markers. We therefore study the standing biodiversity, starting from the morphological approach and adding data from mitochondrial and nuclear genomes. Taxa under study are represented by the termite genera Reticulitermes and Kalotermes (Hexapoda, Insecta, Isoptera) and the tadpole shrimps genera Triops and Lepidurus (Crustacea, Branchipoda, Notostraca). Data gathered in these projects are a strong support in comparative studies of other zoological aspects, giving a clear-cut picture of the taxonomic/phylogenetic milieau.

Recently, with termites and in particular stick-insects, we entered in the DNA barcoding world. The “Barcode of Life” is a broad project on planetary scale aiming to develop a DNA sequence-based global standard for species determination. For this purpose, the first 600 bp of the cox1 mitochondrial gene have been identified as the more reliable barcoding sequence for almost all animal species (http://www.barcoding.si.edu).

The order Phasmida includes the so-called stick and leaf insects, well known for being one of the clearest example of cryptic mimetism and for showing a wide variety of reproductive strategies, including parthenogenesis, hybridogenesis and androgenesis (Scali et al., 2003. Biol J Linn Soc 79: 137–150; Schwander et al., 2011. Curr Biol 21:1129-1134; Scavariello et al., 2017. Scientific Reports, 7:41946). The order presently contains more than 3200 species distributed worldwide (except Arctica and Antarctica), with greater abundance in the tropics and sub-tropics. This huge biodiversity calls for a validation of currently recognized taxa and of their phylogeny as, over 3200 valid species, still more than 4800 taxonomic names have been issued. Moreover, beside to the DNA barcoding, an order-scale molecular phylogeny will offer the opportunity to investigate about the origin of phasmids and about ecological and historical factors that shaped their current distribution. We anticipate exciting discoveries during the progress of the campaign, thanks to a huge international collaboration involving researchers/amateurs from all over the world.

 

Collaborations

  • Oskar Conle (taxonomist, Germany): owns the world’s largest collection, which will be one of the major sources for DNA-samples
  • Frank Hennemann (taxonomist, Germany): owns the world second largest private collection, which will be one of the major sources for DNA/samples
  • Paul Brock (Phasmid Study Group , UK): a world-wide recognized expert (see: http://phasmida.speciesfile.org/HomePage/Phasmida/HomePage.aspx )
  • Pablo Valero and Prof. Dr. Antonio Ortiz (University of Murcia, Spain)
  • Prof. Dr. Jane Margaret Costa von Sydow (nstituto Oswaldo Cruz/ Fiocruz, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
  • Dr. Bruno Kneubühler (Switzerland): world’s leading expert in phasmid breeding
  • Joachim Bresseel & Jerome Constant (taxonomists, Institut Royal des Sciences Naturelles, Bruxelles, Belgium)
  • Yeisson Gutierrez (University of Münster, Germany)