Tuesday, December 11, 2007 - 9:45 PM

Soapberry bugs (Rhopalidae: Serinethinae) of the world: How much (and little) we know

Scott P. Carroll, spcarroll@ucdavis.edu, University of California-Davis, Department of Entomology, Center for Population Biology, Davis, CA

Soapberry bugs are excellent organisms for studying responses to global change, evolution in action, ecological speciation, development and behavior. Yet little is known of the biology of this group of about 65 species in three genera. They are colorful, 8-30 mm seed feeders. Their diversity is the result of an adaptive radiation on the plant family Sapindaceae, the soapberries, whose cyanide-based defenses the bugs have overcome. The New World genus Jadera consists of nearly 20 species that range naturally from Kansas to southern Argentina. Boisea consists of 4 species, 2 in Africa, 2 in North America, including the well-known Box Elder bugs. Leptocoris includes more than 40 species, in Oceania, Australia, Asia, and Africa. The specialized habits of soapberry bugs readily invite hypotheses about their adaptive responses to environmental change, and some of the fastest rates of evolution recorded are from this group as they have evolved new races on introduced host plants. They are easy to rear, which makes them good models for experimental work in genetics and ecology as well. Having become a "textbook" taxon, an unaddressed need for this group is a study of the molecular systematics of the host races and in relation to the phylogeny of the host family.

Species 1: Hemiptera Rhopalidae Jadera (soapberry bug)
Species 2: Hemiptera Rhopalidae Boisea (soapberry bug)
Species 3: Hemiptera Rhopalidae Leptocoris (soapberry bug)