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PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e32152. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032152. Epub 2012 Feb 27.

Higher level phylogeny and the first divergence time estimation of Heteroptera (Insecta: Hemiptera) based on multiple genes.

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Institute of Entomology, College of Life Sciences, Nankai University, Tianjin, China.


Heteroptera, or true bugs, are the largest, morphologically diverse and economically important group of insects with incomplete metamorphosis. However, the phylogenetic relationships within Heteroptera are still in dispute and most of the previous studies were based on morphological characters or with single gene (partial or whole 18S rDNA). Besides, so far, divergence time estimates for Heteroptera totally rely on the fossil record, while no studies have been performed on molecular divergence rates. Here, for the first time, we used maximum parsimony (MP), maximum likelihood (ML) and Bayesian inference (BI) with multiple genes (18S rDNA, 28S rDNA, 16S rDNA and COI) to estimate phylogenetic relationships among the infraorders, and meanwhile, the Penalized Likelihood (r8s) and Bayesian (BEAST) molecular dating methods were employed to estimate divergence time of higher taxa of this suborder. Major results of the present study included: Nepomorpha was placed as the most basal clade in all six trees (MP trees, ML trees and Bayesian trees of nuclear gene data and four-gene combined data, respectively) with full support values. The sister-group relationship of Cimicomorpha and Pentatomomorpha was also strongly supported. Nepomorpha originated in early Triassic and the other six infraorders originated in a very short period of time in middle Triassic. Cimicomorpha and Pentatomomorpha underwent a radiation at family level in Cretaceous, paralleling the proliferation of the flowering plants. Our results indicated that the higher-group radiations within hemimetabolous Heteroptera were simultaneously with those of holometabolous Coleoptera and Diptera which took place in the Triassic. While the aquatic habitat was colonized by Nepomorpha already in the Triassic, the Gerromorpha independently adapted to the semi-aquatic habitat in the Early Jurassic.

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