Ready to strike: Exposing the systematics of ambush bugs (Heteroptera: Reduviidae: Phymatinae)

Monday, November 11, 2013: 8:24 AM
Meeting Room 4 BC (Austin Convention Center)
Sarah Frankenberg , Entomology, University California, Riverside, CA
Amy Michael , Entomology, University of California, Riverside, CA
Christiane Weirauch , Department of Nematology, University of California, Riverside, CA
Phymatinae, the ambush bugs, is one of the most charismatic groups of Reduviidae. They feature striking diversity of raptorial fore legs, stridulation behaviors, and mate-guarding, as well as sexual dimorphism. Species of Phymata Latreille are commonly found in North America - most frequently while ambushing insects on flowers - and are encountered frequently in ecological surveys. However, their taxonomy is currently a conundrum. In the US and Canada, 17 species containing 11 subspecies have been described, and many undescribed species are consistently observed. Strong intraspecific morphological variation, outdated species distributions, and insufficient species descriptions make identifications problematic. Keys for Phymata are difficult to decipher, and lack recently described species. These factors have left many museums with large holdings of unidentified or incorrectly identified specimens. For the first time in fifty years, we are revisiting the taxonomy of these enigmatic creatures. Our molecular analyses of Phymatinae, with emphasis on North America, provide a starting hypothesis for relationships within Phymata and the larger Phymatine Complex. These molecular data are being compared to locality information from over 4,000 specimens from 6 collections in an effort to delimit the geographic ranges of many species and subspecies and test their validity. Initial investigations of genitalic morphology have further aided species-level identification. Our photographic glossary now better illustrates features for existing keys. This preliminary research will lay the groundwork for a complete revision of the genus, elevating it from a curatorial impediment to a valuable resource for assessing biodiversity.