The higher level classification of speciose and morphologically dissimilar groups is often problematic. A lack of defining synapomorphic characters, high degrees of phenetic dissimilarity, and treatments of only local (not global) fauna can lead to classification schemes that do not reflect phylogeny. This is the situation in a complex of cicadellid subfamilies related to the subfamily Deltocephalinae. Currently, Deltocephalinae contains over 10,000 species placed in over 700 genera and 23 recognized tribes. However, recent molecular data and morphological observations indicate that several currently recognized subfamilies are very closely related to Deltocephalinae, and probably represent derived lineages within the deltocephaline complex. In this study, over 100 morphological characters and over 60 exemplar species are analyzed under the criterion of maximum parsimony. The goals are to define synapomorphies for the major lineages, to determine the relationships among the currently recognized tribes, and to determine the phylogenetic affinities of the related subfamilies. The resulting phylogenetic hypothesis is presented as a cladogram, and life history traits (e.g., host plant use) and biogeography are discussed within this framework.
Keywords: systematics, morphology
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