Molecular phylogeny and systematics of long-legged flies (Diptera: Dolichopodidae)

With over 7100 species worldwide, long-legged flies (or Dolichopodidae) represent one of the most diverse families in the order Diptera. Only Limoniidae (over 10,300 species), Tachinidae (over 9,600), and Asilidae (over 7,400) comprise more described species. The real number of taxa is supposed to be much higher, especially in the tropics, where dozens of new species are discovered every year. Highest dolichodid diversities and abundances are found in humid sites, and due to their specific habitat requirements they show a high potential as bio-indicators for natural quality assessments of biotopes. As both larvae and adults of most species are predaceous and feed on small soft-bodied arthropods, they have been considered beneficial for pest control. Moreover, their elaborate courtship behaviour and their conspicuous male secondary sexual characters (on the legs, wings, head, or abdomen) provide excellent opportunities for studying sexual selection and speciation processes. Despite, or just because of, its high species richness and the presence of conspicuous morphological characters, phylogenetic research on Dolichopodidae is still in its infancy. On a worldwide basis, until recently the arrangement of species into subfamilies and genera has always been based mainly on traditional morphological research and is currently still subject of debate. Comprehensive molecular phylogenetic data on Dolichopodidae are restricted to a limited set of study based solely on European or Oriental species. The goal of our research project is to generate a detailed phylogenetic analysis of the Family Dolichopodidae at various systematic levels and to infer a first comprehensive molecular phylogeny based on both mitochondrial and nuclear markers with a well-balanced representation of a wide array of key lineages from different zoogeographical regions.

Participants

Dr. Marco V. Bernasconi (Project Leader)
Christoph Germann (Ph.D. Student)

Co-operation partners

Dr. Marc Pollet (Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO), Brussels, Belgium)
Dr. Patrick Grootaert (Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels, Belgium)

Publications

Germann, C., Pollet, M., Tanner, S., Backeljau, T. & Bernasconi, M. V. (2010) Legs of deception: disagreement between molecular markers and morphology (Diptera, Dolichopodidae). Journal of Systematics & Evolutionary Research 48: 238–247.

Pollet, M., Germann, C., Tanner, S., & Bernasconi, M.V. (2010) Hypotheses from mitochondrial DNA: congruence and conflicts with morphology in Dolichopodinae systematics (Diptera: Dolichopodidae). Invertebrate Systematics 24: 32–50.

Bernasconi, M.V., Pollet, M., & Ward, P.I. (2007) Molecular systematics of Dolichopodidae (Diptera) inferred from COI and 12S rDNA gene sequences based on European exemplars. Invertebrate Systematics 21: 453-470.

Bernasconi, M.V., Pollet, M., Varini-Ooijen, M. & Ward, P.I. (2007) Phylogeny of European Dolichopus and Gymnopternus (Diptera, Dolichopodidae) and the significance of morphological characters inferred from molecular data. European Journal of Entomology 104: 601–617.