9-genes reinforce the phylogeny of holometabola and yield alternate views on the phylogenetic placement of Strepsiptera


Background: The extraordinary morphology, reproductive and developmental biology, and behavioral ecology of twisted wing parasites (order Strepsiptera) have puzzled biologists for centuries. Even today, the phylogenetic position of these enigmatic "insects from outer space" [1] remains uncertain and contentious. Recent authors have argued for the placement of Strepsiptera within or as a close relative of beetles (order Coleoptera), as sister group of flies (order Diptera), or even outside of Holometabola. Methodology/Principal Findings: Here, we combine data from several recent studies with new data (for a total of 9 nuclear genes and ~13 kb of aligned data for 34 taxa), to help clarify the phylogenetic placement of Strepsiptera. Our results unequivocally support the monophyly of Neuropteroidea (= Neuropterida + Coleoptera) + Strepsiptera, but recover Strepsiptera either derived from within polyphagan beetles (order Coleoptera), or in a position sister to Neuropterida. All other supra-ordinal- and ordinal-level relationships recovered with strong nodal support were consistent with most other recent studies. Conclusions/Significance: These results, coupled with the recent proposed placement of Strepsiptera sister to Coleoptera, suggest that while the phylogenetic neighborhood of Strepsiptera has been identified, unequivocal placement to a specific branch within Neuropteroidea will require additional study. © 2010 McKenna, Farrell.

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