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PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e45523. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0045523. Epub 2012 Sep 28.

Evolutionary history of assassin bugs (insecta: hemiptera: Reduviidae): insights from divergence dating and ancestral state reconstruction.

Author information

1
Department of Entomology, University of California Riverside, Riverside, CA, USA. weisong.hwang@email.ucr.edu

Abstract

Assassin bugs are one of the most successful clades of predatory animals based on their species numbers (∼6,800 spp.) and wide distribution in terrestrial ecosystems. Various novel prey capture strategies and remarkable prey specializations contribute to their appeal as a model to study evolutionary pathways involved in predation. Here, we reconstruct the most comprehensive reduviid phylogeny (178 taxa, 18 subfamilies) to date based on molecular data (5 markers). This phylogeny tests current hypotheses on reduviid relationships emphasizing the polyphyletic Reduviinae and the blood-feeding, disease-vectoring Triatominae, and allows us, for the first time in assassin bugs, to reconstruct ancestral states of prey associations and microhabitats. Using a fossil-calibrated molecular tree, we estimated divergence times for key events in the evolutionary history of Reduviidae. Our results indicate that the polyphyletic Reduviinae fall into 11-14 separate clades. Triatominae are paraphyletic with respect to the reduviine genus Opisthacidius in the maximum likelihood analyses; this result is in contrast to prior hypotheses that found Triatominae to be monophyletic or polyphyletic and may be due to the more comprehensive taxon and character sampling in this study. The evolution of blood-feeding may thus have occurred once or twice independently among predatory assassin bugs. All prey specialists evolved from generalist ancestors, with multiple evolutionary origins of termite and ant specializations. A bark-associated life style on tree trunks is ancestral for most of the lineages of Higher Reduviidae; living on foliage has evolved at least six times independently. Reduviidae originated in the Middle Jurassic (178 Ma), but significant lineage diversification only began in the Late Cretaceous (97 Ma). The integration of molecular phylogenetics with fossil and life history data as presented in this paper provides insights into the evolutionary history of reduviids and clears the way for in-depth evolutionary hypothesis testing in one of the most speciose clades of predators.

PMID:
23029072
PMCID:
PMC3460966
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0045523
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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