New Pub! Revision of Liturgusa, 3 New Genera & 19 New Species

A new publication by Gavin Svenson in ZooKeys describes the revision of genus Liturgusa, as well as the identification of three new mantid genera and 19 new species. Svenson is the Curator of Invertebrate Zoology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, which also posted a news release about these discoveries. Dr. Svenson describes this research in this video.

New Pub! Wieland 2013

Wieland, F. 2013. The phylogenetic system of Mantodea (Insecta: Dictyoptera). – Species, Phylogeny & Evolution 3,1: 3-222.

Praying mantises (Mantodea) are a charismatic group of raptorial insects. Their main distribution encompasses the tropical and subtropical regions of the world where they have conquered almost every habitat including the sandy deserts. Mantodea are well-known to the public. Their highly moveable heads and an impressive appearance, ranging from conspicuously colourful to well-camouflaged and plant-like, add to their popularity.

Despite their often fantastic looks and interesting behaviour, Mantodea have been mostly neglected by science in the past century. A renaissance of praying mantis research by both molecular and morphological means has recently started to contribute immensely to our understanding of these fascinating insects and their evolution.

This volume presents the first phylogenetic analysis of Mantodea based exclusively on an extensive morphological dataset comprising the description and detailed discussion of 152 morphological characters for 122 species from the greater part of the taxonomical subgroups. Observations on fossil mantises, postembryonic development, and sexual dimorphism are considered for tracing character evolution, and the results are compared with the latest molecular findings.

The structures of many rare taxa are shown in detail for the first time, including the forelegs of Chaeteessa, Mantoida, and Metallyticus. Selected characters and their evolution are elucidated in further detail, for example head processes, asymmetrical male antennomeres, female digging structures, and the aberrant foreleg morphology of Chaeteessa and Metallyticus. Hypotheses on the early evolution of the mantodean lifestyle are presented.

This monograph contains more than 460 figures, including detailed drawings and SEM images of morphological structures, making this volume the most comprehensive work on mantodean morphology to date.

Wieland 2013 cover

New Pub! Rafter et al. 2013


1. Monarch caterpillars, Danaus plexippus (Linnaeus), feed on milkweed plants in the genus Asclepias and sequester cardenolides as an anti–predator defence. However, some predators are able to consume this otherwise unpalatable prey.

2. Chinese mantids, Tenodera sinensis (Saussure), were observed consuming monarch caterpillars by ‘gutting’ them (i.e. removing the gut and associated internal organs). They then feed on the body of this herbivore without any apparent ill effects.

3. How adult T. sinensis handle and consume toxic (D. plexippus) and non–toxic [Ostrinia nubilalis (Hübner) and Galleria mellonella (Linnaeus)] caterpillars was explored. The differences in the carbon/nitrogen (C:N) ratio and cardenolide content of monarch tissue consumed or discarded by mantids were analysed.

4. Mantids gutted monarchs while wholly consuming non–toxic species. Monarch gut tissue had a higher C:N ratio than non–gut tissue, confirming the presence of plant material. Although there were more cardenolide peaks in the monarch body compared with gut tissue, the total cardenolide concentration and polarity index did not differ.

5. Although T. sinensis treated toxic prey differently than non–toxic prey, gutting did not decrease the mantid’s total cardenolide intake. As other predators consume monarch caterpillars whole, this behaviour may be rooted in species–specific vulnerability to particular cardenolides or simply reflect a preference for high–N tissues.

Rafter, J.L., Agrawal, A.A. & Preisser, E.L. 2013. Chinese mantids gut toxic monarch caterpillars: avoidance of prey defence? – Ecological Entomology 38(1): 76-82.

New Pub! Ariza et al. 2012

Abstract Species of mantids from the Department of Tolima, Colombia, were identified from specimens collected in the field and from material deposited in the “Museo del Laboratorio de Entomología” from “Universidad del Tolima”. Surveys were carried out in the Coello River Basin; the area was divided into ten sections according to the altitude; two
points were chosen in each section and mantids were collected from 100 m2 transects. Each site was surveyed for 45 minutes. In Tolima 22 species of mantids were found, including a possible new species in the genera Acanthops and the new record from Colombia Parastagmatoptera serricornis. Pseudomiopteryx infuscata is confirmed from Colombia. Descriptive figures of oothecae and genitalia of some collected species are shown.

Ariza, G.M., Salazar E., J.A., & Canal, N.A. 2012. Especies y distribución de los mántidos (Mantodea) del departamento del Tolima, Colombia. – Revista entomologia 38(2): 282-290. (In Spanish)

New Pub! Cameron et al. in press

A mitochondrial genome phylogeny of termites (Blattodea: Termitoidae): Robust support for interfamilial relationships and molecular synapomorphies define major clades.

Stephen L. CameronNathan LoThomas BourguignonGavin J. SvensonTheodore A. Evans
Despite their ecological significance as decomposers and their evolutionary significance as the most speciose eusocial insect group outside the Hymenoptera, termite (Blattodea: Termitoidae or Isoptera) evolutionary relationships have yet to be well resolved. Previous morphological and molecular analyses strongly conflict at the family level and are marked by poor support for backbone nodes. A mitochondrial (mt) genome phylogeny of termites was produced to test relationships between the recognised termite families, improve nodal support and test the phylogenetic utility of rare genomic changes found in the termite mt genome. Complete mt genomes were sequenced for 7 of the 9 extant termite families with additional representatives of each of the two most speciose families Rhinotermitidae (3 of 7 subfamilies) and Termitidae (3 of 8 subfamilies). The mt genome of the well supported sister-group of termites, the subsocial cockroach Cryptocercus, was also sequenced. A highly supported tree of termite relationships was produced by all analytical methods and data treatment approaches, however the relationship of the termites + Cryptocercus clade to other cockroach lineages was highly affected by the strong nucleotide compositional bias found in termites relative to other dictyopterans. The phylogeny supports previously proposed suprafamilial termite lineages, the Euisoptera and Neoisoptera, a later derived Kalotermitidae as sister group of the Neoisoptera and a monophyletic clade of dampwood (Stolotermitidae, Archotermopsidae) and harvester termites (Hodotermitidae). In contrast to previous termite phylogenetic studies, nodal supports were very high for family-level relationships within termites. Two rare genomic changes in the mt genome control region were found to be molecular synapomorphies for major clades. An elongated stem-loop structure defined the clade Polyphagidae + (Cryptocercus + termites), and a further series of compensatory base changes in this stem-loop is synapomorphic for the Neoisoptera. The complicated repeat structures first identified in Reticulitermes, composed of short (A-type) and long (B-type repeats) defines the clade Heterotermitinae + Termitidae, while the secondary loss of A-type repeats is synapomorphic for the non-macrotermitine Termitidae.