New Zealand tiger beetles are represented by the endemic genus Neocicindela Rivalier, which contains twelve described species. The beetles occur in a variety of habitats ranging from coastal sand dunes to subalpine scree. A molecular phylogeny for the group was derived from 2000b.p of cytochrome b, 16S ribosomal RNA and cytochrome oxidase III mitochondrial DNA sequence data. All species, bar one, were sampled and in many species multiple sequences were obtained for several individuals from different geographic locations, including three subspecies of the beach-dwelling taxon N. perhispida. The single most parsimonious phylogram derived for the genus corresponds generally with the taxonomic groupings proposed by Savill (1999) on the basis of morphology and habitat preference. However, there are convincing grounds for further subdivision of the N. perhispida complex and N. helmsi. The grouping of N. perhispida giveni with N. brevilunata, another beach-dwelling taxon, is strongly supported, and particularly notable because distribution data for the beach-dwelling taxa reflect the geographical distribution of Pliocene islands. By assuming that the radiation of this clade occurred in the Pliocene it is possible to calibrate the phylogeny, in order to make tentative estimates of the age of the genus. The high levels of divergence seen within the New Zealand group supports the idea that the group radiated in the distant past. The distribution of putative sister groups for this genus is consistent with the notion that the group had a Gondwanic origin. The common ancestor of Neocicindela may even have colonised New Zealand while it was still linked to Gondwana more than 70 million years ago.
Species 1: Coleoptera Carabidae Neocicindela perhispida
Species 2: Coleoptera Carabidae Neocicindela helmsi
Species 3: Coleoptera Carabidae Neocicindela brevilunata
Keywords: New Zealand tiger beetles
The ESA 2001 Annual Meeting - 2001: An Entomological Odyssey of ESA