Forschung / Research


Topic01: The Evolution of Endopterygota - reconstructing the phylogeny of the most successful lineage of organisms with phylogenomic and morphological data (DFG BE1789/8-1)

Topic02: 1KITE, Reconstructing the phylogeny of Hexapoda using transcriptomes

Topic03: The phylogeny and evolution of the "Lower Neoptera" (Insecta) (DFG BE1789/10-1)

Topic04: Der männliche Genitalapparat der holometabolen Insekten und seine evolutive Bedeutung (VolkswagenStiftung)

Topic05: The evolution of larval and adult features in Diptera (Insecta) (DFG 1789/6-1)

Topic06:  The phylogeny of the megadiverse Chrysomeloidea using morpholocical characters and molecular data (Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing)

Topic07: The evolution of attachment structures in Paraneoptera (IMPRS Jena)

Topic08: Miniaturisation in insects

Topic09: Innovative morphological techniques

Topic10: Extension and modification of Morph D Base producing a system for permanent storage and documentation of volume data of biological objects in high resolution (DFG BE1789/9-1)


 

Topic01: The Evolution of Endopterygota

Co-operation with Prof. Dr. B. Misof (Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander König, Bonn)

Endopterygota (=Holometabola) are the most successful lineage of living organisms (ca. 800.000). Even though strong efforts have been made recently to reconstruct the phylogenetic relationships, different molecular data sets and morphological characters still yield conflicting results. The evolution of the group is far from being understood. For the reconstruction of a robust backbone of the holometabolan phylogeny extensive sequence data will be compiled (ESTs and single gene data) and analysed separately and in combination with large morphological data sets from an earlier project (BE 1789/4-1; e.g., Beutel et al. 2010). The branching pattern will enable us to reconstruct the evolution of different character complexes, such as for instance larval head structures associated with feeding, or the thoracic locomotor apparatus. Scenarios for the early evolution of holometabolous insects will be developed.

The main issues are 1) The interrelationships of the holometabolan orders; 2) The evolution of different character complexes and the groundplan of the lineage; 3) The assessment of data quality and information content of molecular and morphological data.

 

Topic02: 1KITE, Reconstructing the phylogeny of Hexapoda using transcriptomes

Co-operation with Prof. Dr. B. Misof (Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander König, Bonn), Prof. Dr. K. Kjer (Rutgers University, NJ), Dr. X. Zhou (Beijing Genomics Institute, Shenzhen), Prof. Dr. R. Machida (University of Tsukuba, Sugadaira Mountain Research Centre), Prof. Dr. G. Pass (Universität Wien), Dr. A. Stamatakis (Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies), Dr. Frank Friedrich (Universität Hamburg) and others

Insects are by far the most species rich metazoan group and include many model organisms and economically and medically relevant species. Nevertheless, compared to vertebrates, insect transcriptomes have not been explored in depth for scientific and applied questions. The 1KITE initiative will alleviate this problem by characterizing 1000 transcriptomes of selected insect species covering the full taxonomic range, from ancestrally wingless hexapods to Holometabola. Special focus will be on transcriptomes of key taxa, including environmentally, economically and medically important groups. Several subprojects (e.g., Polyneoptera, Paraneoptera, Antliophora, Hymenoptera) will be carried in the framework of the project. The main goal aim is to deliver a robust backbone tree for the entire Hexapoda. Additionally, fully characterized transcriptomes of insects with impact on humans will be made available.

 

Topic03: The phylogeny and evolution of the "Lower Neoptera" (Insecta)

Dipl. Biol. Benjamin Wipfler, co-operation with PD. Dr. T. Hörnschemeyer, Dr. S. Bradler (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen), Dr.  K. Klass (Museum für Tierkunde, Senckenberg Natural History Collections Dresden)

Even though great efforts have been made to reconstruct the phylogeny of the lower neopteran insects (Polyneoptera), their relationships are still largely unresolved. This is presently the greatest gap in the understanding of insect systematics and evolution. The "Lower Neoptera" comprise nine lineages, the species-rich Orthoptera and Dictyoptera, the Plecoptera, the highly specialised Phasmatodea, Embioptera, and Dermaptera, and the very small orders Grylloblattodea, Mantophasmatodea, and Zoraptera. The knowledge of the morphology is fragmentary and superficial. Our project is designed to compile an extensive morphological dataset with a focus on presumptive key taxa. The phylogenetic reconstruction will provide a source for testing molecular trees and for placing extinct taxa (see e.g., 1KITE). A well supported phylogenetic hypothesis and comprehensive evolutionary scenario for the "Lower Neoptera" are the ultimate goals of the project.

 

Topic04: Der männliche Genitalapparat der holometabolen Insekten und seine evolutive Bedeutung/The male genital apparatus of holometabolous insects and its evolutionary significance

Dr. Frank Hünefeld, co-operation with Prof. Dr. R. Dallai (University of Siena), Prof. Dr. R. Machida (University of Tsukuba) and Prof. Dr. R. Meier (National University of Singapore)

The project combines aspects of museum specific research, evolution, phylogeny, and taxonomy. Its focus is on the male genital apparatus. With its complexity and extreme variability it has likely played a very important role in the evolution of the megadiverse insects. The 'lock-and-key mechanism' was often addressed by evolutionary biologists in the context of speciation processes. We apply innovative techniques to investigate external and internal genital structures. The largely unclear homology of elements of the male apparatus is addressed in a phylogenetic context. Genital characters will be coded and analysed with other morphological and molecular data (see Endopterygota project and 1KITE). Based on the results an evolutionary scenario for the male genital apparatus of Holometabola will be developed. An exemplar group (genus Eois, Geometridae, Lepidoptera) was chosen to optimise the study of genitalia in the context of taxonomic revisions with museum material. The significance of the 'lock-and-key mechanism' and of sexual selection will be critically evaluated.  A workshop will be carried out with a focus on innovative morphological techniques (2012). Models based on computer-reconstructions and results of the project will be presented in an exhibition ("Insects and Sex") in the Phyletisches Museum.

 

Topic05: The evolution of larval and adult features in Diptera (Insecta)

Dipl. Biol. Katharina Schneeberg, Dipl. Biol. Benjamin Wipfler, co-operation with Prof. Dr. G. Courtney (Iowa State University) and others

Diptera are an extremely species rich group with ca. 150.000 species. As vectors of numerous diseases adults have unparalleled negative impacts on human health (e.g., Malaria [Anopheles]). Head structures play a major role in this context. The knowledge of adult and larval anatomy in general is very fragmentary. Therefore the first step will be a documentation of morphological data using innovative techniques (including amber fossils) (1). An extensive morphological character set will be compiled (adults and larvae) (2). The phylogenetic evaluation will also include molecular data (Flytree project [NSF]) (3). An evolutionary scenario will be developed, with emphasis on the adult head and feeding apparatus and larval features and habits (4). Groundplans (Diptera and Brachycera) will be reconstructed. The position of Diptera will be re-assessed using data from 'Phylogeny and Evolution of Endopterygota' (BE 1789/4-1). A subproject is a documentation of the morphology of Drosophila with innovative techniques. Shared expertise, data and material will guarantee maximum efficiency.    

 

Topic06:  The phylogeny of the megadiverse Chrysomeloidea using morpholocical characters and molecular data

Co-operation with Assoc. Prof. Dr. S.-Q. Ge, Prof. Dr. X.-K. Yang (Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing) and Prof. Dr. A. Ślipiński (CSIRO Canberra)

Chrysomeloidea are a megadiverse lineage with ca. 50.000 described species. Many members of the group are economically important as pests of cultivated plants. The phylogenetic relationships on the subfamily level will be evaluated with a carefully chosen taxon sampling and a broad spectrum of characters of all life stages (e.g., skeleto-muscular system, wing articulation, attachment structures). Extensive material of larvae, pupae and adults is already available at the Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Beijing) and additional critical taxa will be provided by the Australian Insect Collection (ANIC, CSIRO Canberra).

 

Topic07: The evolution of attachment structures in Paraneoptera (International Max Planck Research School, MPI for Chemical Ecology)

Dipl. Biol. Katrin Friedemann, Co-operation with Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology (Jena) and Prof. Dr. S. Gorb (Universität Kiel)

Functional and evolutionary aspects of attachment structures in Paraneoptera (lice, cicada, true bugs etc.) are investigated.

 

Topic08: Miniaturisation

Co-operation with Dr. hab. H. Pohl (FSU Jena) and Dr. Alexey Polilov (Moscov State University)

The effects of miniaturisation in different groups (e.g., Strepsiptera, Hmenoptera, Diptera, Ptiliidae [Coleoptera]) and on different organ systems (e.g., musculature, cerebrum) are studied. Applied techniques comprise SEM, semithin histological sections, TEM, µ-CT, and 3-dimensional computer reconstruction. 

 

Topic09: Innovative morphological techniques

Co-operation with Dr. Felix Beckmann (DESY Hamburg) and others

A central aspect of our work is to develop and optimize innovative morphological techniques. In our phylogenetic projects we use different combinations of histology, SEM, 3D reconstruction, CLSM and x-ray micro-computertomography. An optimized workflow allows a greatly accelerated acquisition of high quality anatomical data with a minimum of material.

 

Topic10: Extension and modification of MorphDBase producing a system for permanent storage and documentation of volume data of biological objects in high resolution (DFG BE1789/9-1) (LIS Förderprogramm "Informationsmanagement")

Co-operation with Dr. L. Vogt, Prof. Dr. J. Wägele (Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander König Bonn), PD Dr. T. Hörnschemeyer (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen) and Prof. Dr. H. Hoch (Naturkundemuseum Berlin)

The aim of this project is to create optimal storage facilities for morphological megadata, based on an extended version of MorphDBase. Morphological results obtained with different techniques will be made accessible to the scientific community to maximise synergy effects and enhance research in evolutionary morphology and phylogeny.