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Syst Biol. 2002 Jun;51(3):450-77.

Robustness of ancestral state estimates: evolution of life history strategy in ichneumonoid parasitoids.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Imperial College at Silwood Park, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7PY, UK.


We test hypotheses for the evolution of a life history trait among a group of parasitoid wasps (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonoidea), namely, the transition among koinobiont parasitoids (parasitoids whose hosts continue development after oviposition) between attacking exposed hosts and attacking hosts that are concealed within plant tissue. Using a range of phylogeny estimates based on 28S rDNA sequences, we use maximum parsimony (MP) and maximum likelihood (ML) methods to estimate the ancestral life history traits for the main clades in which both traits occur (using the programs MacClade and Discrete, respectively). We also assess the robustness of these estimates; for MP, we use step matrices in PAUP* to find the minimum weight necessary to reverse estimates or make them ambiguous, and for ML, we measure the differences in likelihood after fixing the ancestral nodes at the alternative states. We also measure the robustness of the MP ancestral state estimate against uncertainties in the phylogeny estimate, manipulating the most-parsimonious tree in MacClade to find the shortest suboptimal tree in which the ancestral state estimate is reversed or made ambiguous. Using these methods, we find strong evidence supporting two transitions among koinobiont Ichneumonoidea: (1) to attacking exposed hosts in a clade consisting of the Helconinae and related subfamilies, and (2) the reverse transition in a clade consisting of the Euphorinae and related subfamilies. In exploring different methods of analyzing variable-length DNA sequences, we found that direct optimization with POY gave some clearly erroneous results that had a profound effect on the overall phylogeny estimate. We also discuss relationships within the superfamily and expand the Mesostoinae to include all the gall-associated braconids that form the sister group of the Aphidiinae.

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