Insects in the New World treehopper subfamily Membracinae (5 tribes, 38 genera and 447 species) exhibit variation in social behavior from (1) solitary individuals, to (2) nymphal or adult aggregations, to (3) highly developed maternal care with parent/offspring communication via substrate-borne vibrations. The evolutionary history of social behavior in the Membracinae is not well understood because phylogenies necessary for reconstructing this trait are not available. We do not know whether maternal care is a derived or a primitive trait for the subfamily, whether maternal care gives rise to solitary behavior, or exactly how complex forms of parental care involving communication and signalling have evolved in this group. To date, morphological data has not completely resolved relationships within all of these tribes (in particular, the tribes Membracini and Hypsoprorini).
A phylogenetic analysis of this group will be conducted using molecular (DNA sequences) data. The results of phylogenetic analyses will provide a historical framework to reconstruct the likely direction of behavior character change among membracine treehopper lineages. This information will then be used to identify the origins of subsocial behavior and to trace the development of subsocial behavior over evolutionary time in membracine treehoppers. Preliminary analysis of equally-weighted characters using combined mitochondrial COI, COII, 12S and nuclear wingless DNA sequences for 41 ingroup taxa resulted in one parsimony tree. Bootstrap analysis of this data set supports the monophyly of the subfamily and three tribes (Aconophorini, Hoplophorionini and Hypsoprorini). This tree also suggests that the tribe Hypsoprorini is basal to the remaining tribes.
Species 1: Hemiptera Membracidae (treehoppers)
Keywords: phylogeny, mitochondrial and nuclear
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