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1.  Fossil Liposcelididae and the lice ages (Insecta: Psocodea) 
Fossilized, winged adults belonging to the psocopteran family Liposcelididae are reported in amber from the mid-Cretaceous (ca 100 Myr) of Myanmar (described as Cretoscelis burmitica, gen. et sp. n.) and the Miocene (ca 20 Myr) of the Dominican Republic (Belaphopsocus dominicus sp. n.). Cretoscelis is an extinct sister group to all other Liposcelididae and the family is the free-living sister group to the true lice (order Phthiraptera, all of which are ectoparasites of birds and mammals). A phylogenetic hypothesis of relationships among genera of Liposcelididae, including fossils, reveals perfect correspondence between the chronology of fossils and cladistic rank of taxa. Lice and Liposcelididae minimally diverged 100 Myr, perhaps even in the earliest Cretaceous 145 Myr or earlier, in which case the hosts of lice would have been early mammals, early birds and possibly other feathered theropod dinosaurs, as well as haired pterosaurs.
PMCID: PMC1560062  PMID: 16537135
Burmese amber; Dominican amber; Liposcelididae; sister group; lice
2.  Scratching an ancient itch: an Eocene bird louse fossil. 
Out of the 30 extant orders of insects, all but one, the parasitic lice (Insecta: Phthiraptera), have a confirmed fossil record. Here, we report the discovery of what appears to be the first bird louse fossil: an exceptionally well-preserved specimen collected from the crater of the Eckfeld maar near Manderscheid, Germany. The 44-million-year-old specimen shows close phylogenetic affinities with modern feather louse ectoparasites of aquatic birds. Preservation of feather remnants in the specimen's foregut confirms its association as a bird ectoparasite. Based on a phylogenetic analysis of the specimen and palaeoecological data, we suggest that this louse was the parasite of a large ancestor to modern Anseriformes (swans, geese and ducks) or Charadriiformes (shorebirds). The crown group position of this fossil in the phylogeny of lice confirms the group's long coevolutionary history with birds and points to an early origin for lice, perhaps inherited from early-feathered theropod dinosaurs.
PMCID: PMC1810061  PMID: 15503987
3.  Evolutionary history of mammalian sucking lice (Phthiraptera: Anoplura) 
Sucking lice (Phthiraptera: Anoplura) are obligate, permanent ectoparasites of eutherian mammals, parasitizing members of 12 of the 29 recognized mammalian orders and approximately 20% of all mammalian species. These host specific, blood-sucking insects are morphologically adapted for life on mammals: they are wingless, dorso-ventrally flattened, possess tibio-tarsal claws for clinging to host hair, and have piercing mouthparts for feeding. Although there are more than 540 described species of Anoplura and despite the potential economical and medical implications of sucking louse infestations, this study represents the first attempt to examine higher-level anopluran relationships using molecular data. In this study, we use molecular data to reconstruct the evolutionary history of 65 sucking louse taxa with phylogenetic analyses and compare the results to findings based on morphological data. We also estimate divergence times among anopluran taxa and compare our results to host (mammal) relationships.
This study represents the first phylogenetic hypothesis of sucking louse relationships using molecular data and we find significant conflict between phylogenies constructed using molecular and morphological data. We also find that multiple families and genera of sucking lice are not monophyletic and that extensive taxonomic revision will be necessary for this group. Based on our divergence dating analyses, sucking lice diversified in the late Cretaceous, approximately 77 Ma, and soon after the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary (ca. 65 Ma) these lice proliferated rapidly to parasitize multiple mammalian orders and families.
The diversification time of sucking lice approximately 77 Ma is in agreement with mammalian evolutionary history: all modern mammal orders are hypothesized to have diverged by 75 Ma thus providing suitable habitat for the colonization and radiation of sucking lice. Despite the concordant timing of diversification events early in the association between anoplurans and mammals, there is substantial conflict between the host and parasite phylogenies. This conflict is likely the result of a complex history of host switching and extinction events that occurred throughout the evolutionary association between sucking lice and their mammalian hosts. It is unlikely that there are any ectoparasite groups (including lice) that tracked the early and rapid radiation of eutherian mammals.
PMCID: PMC2949877  PMID: 20860811
4.  Diversification of Neoaves: integration of molecular sequence data and fossils 
Biology Letters  2006;2(4):543-547.
Patterns of diversification and timing of evolution within Neoaves, which includes almost 95% of all bird species, are virtually unknown. On the other hand, molecular data consistently indicate a Cretaceous origin of many neoavian lineages and the fossil record seems to support an Early Tertiary diversification. Here, we present the first well-resolved molecular phylogeny for Neoaves, together with divergence time estimates calibrated with a large number of stratigraphically and phylogenetically well-documented fossils. Our study defines several well-supported clades within Neoaves. The calibration results suggest that Neoaves, after an initial split from Galloanseres in Mid-Cretaceous, diversified around or soon after the K/T boundary. Our results thus do not contradict palaeontological data and show that there is no solid molecular evidence for an extensive pre-Tertiary radiation of Neoaves.
PMCID: PMC1834003  PMID: 17148284
Neoaves; phylogeny; nuclear DNA; fossils; molecular clock; divergence times
5.  Two waves of colonization straddling the K–Pg boundary formed the modern reef fish fauna 
Living reef fishes are one of the most diverse vertebrate assemblages on Earth. Despite its prominence and ecological importance, the origins and assembly of the reef fish fauna is poorly described. A patchy fossil record suggests that the major colonization of reef habitats must have occurred in the Late Cretaceous and early Palaeogene, with the earliest known modern fossil coral reef fish assemblage dated to 50 Ma. Using a phylogenetic approach, we analysed the early evolutionary dynamics of modern reef fishes. We find that reef lineages successively colonized reef habitats throughout the Late Cretaceous and early Palaeogene. Two waves of invasion were accompanied by increasing morphological convergence: one in the Late Cretaceous from 90 to 72 Ma and the other immediately following the end-Cretaceous mass extinction. The surge in reef invasions after the Cretaceous–Palaeogene boundary continued for 10 Myr, after which the pace of transitions to reef habitats slowed. Combined, these patterns match a classic niche-filling scenario: early transitions to reefs were made rapidly by morphologically distinct lineages and were followed by a decrease in the rate of invasions and eventual saturation of morphospace. Major alterations in reef composition, distribution and abundance, along with shifts in climate and oceanic currents, occurred during the Late Cretaceous and early Palaeogene interval. A causal mechanism between these changes and concurrent episodes of reef invasion remains obscure, but what is clear is that the broad framework of the modern reef fish fauna was in place within 10 Myr of the end-Cretaceous extinction.
PMCID: PMC3996619  PMID: 24695431
macroevolution; reef fishes; Cretaceous–Palaeogene mass extinction; niche-filling models
6.  Avian evolution, Gondwana biogeography and the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction event. 
The fossil record has been used to support the origin and radiation of modern birds (Neornithes) in Laurasia after the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction event, whereas molecular clocks have suggested a Cretaceous origin for most avian orders. These alternative views of neornithine evolution are examined using an independent set of evidence, namely phylogenetic relationships and historical biogeography. Pylogenetic relationships of basal lineages of neornithines, including ratite birds and their allies (Palaleocognathae), galliforms and anseriforms (Galloanserae), as well as lineages of the more advanced Neoves (Gruiformes, (Capimulgiformes, Passeriformes and others) demonstrate pervasive trans-Antarctic distribution patterns. The temporal history of the neornithines can be inferred from fossil taxa and the ages of vicariance events, and along with their biogeographical patterns, leads to the conclusion that neornithines arose in Gondwana prior to the Cretaceous Tertiary extinction event.
PMCID: PMC1088628  PMID: 11296857
7.  Mitochondrial genome deletions and minicircles are common in lice (Insecta: Phthiraptera) 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:394.
The gene composition, gene order and structure of the mitochondrial genome are remarkably stable across bilaterian animals. Lice (Insecta: Phthiraptera) are a major exception to this genomic stability in that the canonical single chromosome with 37 genes found in almost all other bilaterians has been lost in multiple lineages in favour of multiple, minicircular chromosomes with less than 37 genes on each chromosome.
Minicircular mt genomes are found in six of the ten louse species examined to date and three types of minicircles were identified: heteroplasmic minicircles which coexist with full sized mt genomes (type 1); multigene chromosomes with short, simple control regions, we infer that the genome consists of several such chromosomes (type 2); and multiple, single to three gene chromosomes with large, complex control regions (type 3). Mapping minicircle types onto a phylogenetic tree of lice fails to show a pattern of their occurrence consistent with an evolutionary series of minicircle types. Analysis of the nuclear-encoded, mitochondrially-targetted genes inferred from the body louse, Pediculus, suggests that the loss of mitochondrial single-stranded binding protein (mtSSB) may be responsible for the presence of minicircles in at least species with the most derived type 3 minicircles (Pediculus, Damalinia).
Minicircular mt genomes are common in lice and appear to have arisen multiple times within the group. Life history adaptive explanations which attribute minicircular mt genomes in lice to the adoption of blood-feeding in the Anoplura are not supported by this expanded data set as minicircles are found in multiple non-blood feeding louse groups but are not found in the blood-feeding genus Heterodoxus. In contrast, a mechanist explanation based on the loss of mtSSB suggests that minicircles may be selectively favoured due to the incapacity of the mt replisome to synthesize long replicative products without mtSSB and thus the loss of this gene lead to the formation of minicircles in lice.
PMCID: PMC3199782  PMID: 21813020
8.  River barriers and cryptic biodiversity in an evolutionary museum 
Ecology and Evolution  2013;3(3):536-545.
The Riverine Barriers Hypothesis (RBH) posits that tropical rivers can be effective barriers to gene flow, based on observations that range boundaries often coincide with river barriers. Over the last 160 years, the RBH has received attention from various perspectives, with a particular focus on vertebrates in the Amazon Basin. To our knowledge, no molecular assessment of the RBH has been conducted on birds in the Afrotropics, despite its rich avifauna and many Afrotropical bird species being widely distributed across numerous watersheds and basins. Here, we provide the first genetic evidence that an Afrotropical river has served as a barrier for birds and for their lice, based on four understory bird species collected from sites north and south of the Congo River. Our results indicate near-contemporaneous, Pleistocene lineage diversification across the Congo River in these species. Our results further indicate differing levels of genetic variation in bird lice; the extent of this variation appears linked to the life-history of both the host and the louse. Extensive cryptic diversity likely is being harbored in Afrotropical forests, in both understory birds and their lice. Therefore, these forests may not be “museums” of old lineages. Rather, substantial evolutionary diversification may have occurred in Afrotropical forests throughout the Pleistocene, supporting the Pleistocene Forest Refuge Hypothesis. Strong genetic variation in birds and their lice within a small part of the Congo Basin forest indicates that we may have grossly underestimated diversity in the Afrotropics, making these forests home of substantial biodiversity in need of conservation.
PMCID: PMC3605844  PMID: 23532272
Afrotropics; birds; Congo River; cryptic diversity; lice; river barriers
9.  Complete mitochondrial DNA genome sequences show that modern birds are not descended from transitional shorebirds. 
To test the hypothesis put forward by Feduccia of the origin of modern birds from transitional birds, we sequenced the first two complete mitochondrial genomes of shorebirds (ruddy turnstone and blackish oystercatcher) and compared their sequences with those of already published avian genomes. When corrected for rate heterogeneity across sites and non-homogeneous nucleotide compositions among lineages in maximum likelihood (ML), the optimal tree places palaeognath birds as sister to the neognaths including shorebirds. This optimal topology is a re-rooting of recently published ordinal-level avian trees derived from mitochondrial sequences. Using a penalized likelihood (PL) rate-smoothing process in conjunction with dates estimated from fossils, we show that the basal splits in the bird tree are much older than the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary, reinforcing previous molecular studies that rejected the derivation of modern birds from transitional shorebirds. Our mean estimate for the origin of modern birds at about 123 million years ago (Myr ago) is quite close to recent estimates using both nuclear and mitochondrial genes, and supports theories of continental break-up as a driving force in avian diversification. Not only did many modern orders of birds originate well before the K-T boundary, but the radiation of major clades occurred over an extended period of at least 40 Myr ago, thus also falsifying Feduccia's rapid radiation scenario following a K-T bottleneck.
PMCID: PMC1690957  PMID: 11958716
10.  Neither phylogenomic nor palaeontological data support a Palaeogene origin of placental mammals 
Biology Letters  2014;10(1):20131003.
O'Leary et al. (O'Leary et al. 2013 Science 339, 662–667. (doi:10.1126/science.1229237)) performed a fossil-only dating analysis of mammals, concluding that the ancestor of placentals post-dated the Cretaceous–Palaeogene boundary, contradicting previous palaeontological and molecular studies that placed the ancestor in the Cretaceous. They incorrectly used fossil ages as species divergence times for crown groups, while in fact the former should merely form minimum-age bounds for the latter. Statistical analyses of the fossil record have shown that crown groups are significantly older than the oldest ingroup fossil, so that fossils do not directly reflect the true ages of clades. Here, we analyse a 20 million nucleotide genome-scale alignment in conjunction with a probabilistic interpretation of the fossil ages from O'Leary et al. Our combined analysis of fossils and molecules demonstrates that Placentalia originated in the Cretaceous.
PMCID: PMC3917342  PMID: 24429684
placental mammal; fossil; divergence time
11.  Comparative tests of ectoparasite species richness in seabirds 
The diversity of parasites attacking a host varies substantially among different host species. Understanding the factors that explain these patterns of parasite diversity is critical to identifying the ecological principles underlying biodiversity. Seabirds (Charadriiformes, Pelecaniformes and Procellariiformes) and their ectoparasitic lice (Insecta: Phthiraptera) are ideal model groups in which to study correlates of parasite species richness. We evaluated the relative importance of morphological (body size, body weight, wingspan, bill length), life-history (longevity, clutch size), ecological (population size, geographical range) and behavioural (diving versus non-diving) variables as predictors of louse diversity on 413 seabird hosts species. Diversity was measured at the level of louse suborder, genus, and species, and uneven sampling of hosts was controlled for using literature citations as a proxy for sampling effort.
The only variable consistently correlated with louse diversity was host population size and to a lesser extent geographic range. Other variables such as clutch size, longevity, morphological and behavioural variables including body mass showed inconsistent patterns dependent on the method of analysis.
The comparative analysis presented herein is (to our knowledge) the first to test correlates of parasite species richness in seabirds. We believe that the comparative data and phylogeny provide a valuable framework for testing future evolutionary hypotheses relating to the diversity and distribution of parasites on seabirds.
PMCID: PMC2258205  PMID: 18005412
12.  Genetic Analysis of Lice Supports Direct Contact between Modern and Archaic Humans 
PLoS Biology  2004;2(11):e340.
Parasites can be used as unique markers to investigate host evolutionary history, independent of host data. Here we show that modern human head lice, Pediculus humanus, are composed of two ancient lineages, whose origin predates modern Homo sapiens by an order of magnitude (ca. 1.18 million years). One of the two louse lineages has a worldwide distribution and appears to have undergone a population bottleneck ca. 100,000 years ago along with its modern H. sapiens host. Phylogenetic and population genetic data suggest that the other lineage, found only in the New World, has remained isolated from the worldwide lineage for the last 1.18 million years. The ancient divergence between these two lice is contemporaneous with splits among early species of Homo, and cospeciation analyses suggest that the two louse lineages codiverged with a now extinct species of Homo and the lineage leading to modern H. sapiens. If these lice indeed codiverged with their hosts ca. 1.18 million years ago, then a recent host switch from an archaic species of Homo to modern H. sapiens is required to explain the occurrence of both lineages on modern H. sapiens. Such a host switch would require direct physical contact between modern and archaic forms of Homo.
A phylogenetic analysis reveals that humans have two types of head lice and that one must have switched from an ancient to a modern human host, suggesting these humans had contact
PMCID: PMC521174  PMID: 15502871
13.  Phylogenetic relationships and divergence times of Charadriiformes genera: multigene evidence for the Cretaceous origin of at least 14 clades of shorebirds 
Biology Letters  2007;3(2):205-209.
Comparative study of character evolution in the shorebirds is presently limited because the phylogenetic placement of some enigmatic genera remains unclear. We therefore used Bayesian methods to obtain a well-supported phylogeny of 90 recognized genera using 5 kb of mitochondrial and nuclear sequences. The tree comprised three major clades: Lari (gulls, auks and allies plus buttonquails) as sister to Scolopaci (sandpipers, jacanas and allies), and in turn sister to Charadrii (plovers, oystercatchers and allies), as in previous molecular studies. Plovers and noddies were not recovered as monophyletic assemblages, and the Egyptian plover Pluvianus is apparently not a plover. Molecular dating using multiple fossil constraints suggests that the three suborders originated in the late Cretaceous between 79 and 102 Mya, and at least 14 lineages of modern shorebirds survived the mass extinction at the K/T boundary. Previous difficulties in determining the phylogenetic relationships of enigmatic taxa reflect the fact that they are well-differentiated relicts of old, genus-poor lineages. We refrain from suggesting systematic revisions for shorebirds at this time because gene trees may fail to recover the species tree when long branches are connected to deep, shorter branches, as is the case for some of the enigmatic taxa.
PMCID: PMC2375939  PMID: 17284401
Charadriiformes; divergence times; phylogeny; molecular clock
14.  Insect ectoparasites on wild birds in the Czech Republic during the pre-breeding period 
Wild passerine birds (Passeriformes) from the northeastern part of the Czech Republic were examined for ectoparasites during the pre-breeding period in 2007. Two species of fleas of the genera Ceratophyllus and Dasypsyllus (Siphonaptera: Ceratophyllidae), and 23 species of chewing lice belonging to the genera Ricinus, Myrsidea, Menacanthus (Phthiraptera: Menoponidae), Brueelia, Penenirmus, and Philopterus (Phthiraptera: Philopteridae) were found on 108 birds of 16 species. Distribution of insect ectoparasites found on wild birds during pre-breeding was compared with previous data from the post-breeding period. There was no difference in total prevalence of chewing lice in prebreeding and post-breeding periods. Higher prevalence of fleas and slightly higher mean intensity of chewing lice were found on birds during the pre-breeding period. There was a significant difference in total prevalence but equal mean intensity of chewing lice on resident and migrating birds.
PMCID: PMC3671400  PMID: 21395201
chewing lice; Phthiraptera; fleas; Siphonaptera; birds; Passeriformes; spring migration; Czech Republic; mallophages; Phthiraptera; puces; Siphonaptera; oiseaux; Passériformes; migration printanière; République Tchèque
15.  Explosive morphological diversification of spiny-finned teleost fishes in the aftermath of the end-Cretaceous extinction 
The spiny-finned teleost fishes (Acanthomorpha) include nearly one-third of all living vertebrate species and assume a bewildering array of bodyplans, but the macroevolutionary assembly of modern acanthomorph biodiversity remains largely unexplored. Here, I reconstruct the trajectory of morphological diversification in this major radiation from its first appearance in the Late Cretaceous to the Miocene using a geometric morphometric database comprising more than 600 extinct species known from complete body fossils. The anatomical diversity (disparity) of acanthomorphs is low throughout the Cretaceous, increases sharply and significantly in the wake of the Cretaceous–Palaeogene (K–P) extinction, and shows little change throughout subsequent Cenozoic intervals. This pattern of morphological diversification appears robust to two potential biasing factors: the ‘Lagerstätten effect’, and the non-random segregation of rare and common taxa along phenotypic axes. Dissecting the trajectory of acanthomorph radiation along phylogenetic lines reveals that the abrupt post-extinction increase in disparity is driven largely by the proliferation of trophically diverse modern groups within Percomorpha, a spiny-fin subclade containing more than 15 000 living species and identified as showing a substantially elevated diversification rate relative to background vertebrate levels. A major component of the Palaeogene acanthomorph radiation reflects colonization of morphospace previously occupied by non-acanthomorph victims of the K–P. However, other aspects of morphological diversification cannot be explained by this simple ecological release model, suggesting that multiple factors contributed to the prolific anatomical radiation of acanthomorphs.
PMCID: PMC2871855  PMID: 20133356
Acanthomorpha; adaptive radiation; biodiversity; ecological release; morphometrics; Teleostei
16.  Two ancient bacterial endosymbionts have coevolved with the planthoppers (Insecta: Hemiptera: Fulgoroidea) 
Members of the hemipteran suborder Auchenorrhyncha (commonly known as planthoppers, tree- and leafhoppers, spittlebugs, and cicadas) are unusual among insects known to harbor endosymbiotic bacteria in that they are associated with diverse assemblages of bacterial endosymbionts. Early light microscopic surveys of species representing the two major lineages of Auchenorrhyncha (the planthopper superfamily Fulgoroidea; and Cicadomorpha, comprising Membracoidea [tree- and leafhoppers], Cercopoidea [spittlebugs], and Cicadoidea [cicadas]), found that most examined species harbored at least two morphologically distinct bacterial endosymbionts, and some harbored as many as six. Recent investigations using molecular techniques have identified multiple obligate bacterial endosymbionts in Cicadomorpha; however, much less is known about endosymbionts of Fulgoroidea. In this study, we present the initial findings of an ongoing PCR-based survey (sequencing 16S rDNA) of planthopper-associated bacteria to document endosymbionts with a long-term history of codiversification with their fulgoroid hosts.
Results of PCR surveys and phylogenetic analyses of 16S rDNA recovered a monophyletic clade of Betaproteobacteria associated with planthoppers; this clade included Vidania fulgoroideae, a recently described bacterium identified in exemplars of the planthopper family Cixiidae. We surveyed 77 planthopper species representing 18 fulgoroid families, and detected Vidania in 40 species (representing 13 families). Further, we detected the Sulcia endosymbiont (identified as an obligate endosymbiont of Auchenorrhyncha in previous studies) in 30 of the 40 species harboring Vidania. Concordance of the Vidania phylogeny with the phylogeny of the planthopper hosts (reconstructed based on sequence data from five genes generated from the same insect specimens from which the bacterial sequences were obtained) was supported by statistical tests of codiversification. Codiversification tests also supported concordance of the Sulcia phylogeny with the phylogeny of the planthopper hosts, as well as concordance of planthopper-associated Vidania and Sulcia phylogenies.
Our results indicate that the Betaproteobacterium Vidania is an ancient endosymbiont that infected the common ancestor of Fulgoroidea at least 130 million years ago. Comparison of our findings with the early light-microscopic surveys conducted by Müller suggests that Vidania is Müller’s x-symbiont, which he hypothesized to have codiversified with most lineages of planthoppers and with the Sulcia endosymbiont.
PMCID: PMC3495885  PMID: 22697166
Endosymbiont; Planthoppers; Fulgoroidea; Vidania; Sulcia; Codiversification
17.  First Evidence for a Massive Extinction Event Affecting Bees Close to the K-T Boundary 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e76683.
Bees and eudicot plants both arose in the mid-late Cretaceous, and their co-evolutionary relationships have often been assumed as an important element in the rise of flowering plants. Given the near-complete dependence of bees on eudicots we would expect that major extinction events affecting the latter would have also impacted bees. However, given the very patchy distribution of bees in the fossil record, identifying any such extinctions using fossils is very problematic. Here we use molecular phylogenetic analyses to show that one bee group, the Xylocopinae, originated in the mid-Cretaceous, coinciding with the early radiation of the eudicots. Lineage through time analyses for this bee subfamily show very early diversification, followed by a long period of seemingly no radiation and then followed by rapid diversification in each of the four constituent tribes. These patterns are consistent with both a long-fuse model of radiation and a massive extinction event close to the K-T boundary. We argue that massive extinction is much more plausible than a long fuse, given the historical biogeography of these bees and the diversity of ecological niches that they occupy. Our results suggest that events near the K-T boundary would have disrupted many plant-bee relationships, with major consequences for the subsequent evolution of eudicots and their pollinators.
PMCID: PMC3806776  PMID: 24194843
18.  Reinterpreting the origins of flamingo lice: cospeciation or host-switching? 
Biology Letters  2006;2(2):275-278.
The similarity of the louse faunas of flamingos and ducks has been used as evidence that these two groups of birds are closely related. However, the realization that ducks actually are more closely related to Galliformes caused many workers to reinterpret this similarity in parasite faunas as host switching from ducks to flamingos. Recent unexpected phylogenetic results on the relationships of waterbirds and their lice call for a reinterpretation of the origins of the lice of the enigmatic flamingos. Here, we bring together new evidence on the phylogenetic relationships of flamingos and their lice and show that the lice of flamingos and grebes are closely related because their hosts share a common ancestor (cospeciation). We also demonstrate that the similarity of the louse faunas of flamingos and ducks is a result of host switching from flamingos to ducks, rather than from ducks to flamingos.
PMCID: PMC1618896  PMID: 17148381
coevolution; Phthiraptera; avian systematics; Phoenicopteridae; ducks; grebes
19.  The Hippoboscidae (Insecta: Diptera) from Madagascar, with new records from the “Parc National de Midongy Befotaka” 
The Hippoboscidae or “louse-flies” is a family of pupiparous Diptera, which in their adult stage are ectoparasites of mammals and birds. This paper presents a comprehensive review of Malagasy Hippoboscidae. In total, amongst the 213 species of this family known worldwide, 14 have been reported in Madagascar, among which six are considered as endemic to the Malagasy region. In addition, data are presented from a collection of 17 Hippoboscidae obtained from seven species of forest-dwelling birds in the “Parc National de Midongy Befotaka”, southeastern Madagascar, in 2003. The flies in this collection belong to three different species: Icosta malagasii (one), Ornithoica podicipis (ten) and Ornithoctona laticornis (six). The two former species were previously only known from single specimens in museum collections; the later species is distributed across much of the Afrotropical region and the records presented herein are the first for Madagascar. All the seven bird species are new hosts for hippoboscids. We present the first description of the male of Icosta malagasii. An illustrated dichotomous determination key of the 14 Malagasy species, based on morphological criteria only, is presented.
PMCID: PMC3671411  PMID: 21678788
Hippoboscidae; birds; review; determination key; hostparasite relationship; taxonomy; Madagascar; Midongy Befotaka; Hippoboscidae; oiseaux; revue; clé de détermination; relations hôte-parasite; taxonomie; Madagascar; Midongy Befotaka
20.  A Multilocus Molecular Phylogeny of the Parrots (Psittaciformes): Support for a Gondwanan Origin during the Cretaceous 
Molecular Biology and Evolution  2008;25(10):2141-2156.
The question of when modern birds (Neornithes) first diversified has generated much debate among avian systematists. Fossil evidence generally supports a Tertiary diversification, whereas estimates based on molecular dating favor an earlier diversification in the Cretaceous period. In this study, we used an alternate approach, the inference of historical biogeographic patterns, to test the hypothesis that the initial radiation of the Order Psittaciformes (the parrots and cockatoos) originated on the Gondwana supercontinent during the Cretaceous. We utilized broad taxonomic sampling (representatives of 69 of the 82 extant genera and 8 outgroup taxa) and multilocus molecular character sampling (3,941 bp from mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) genes cytochrome oxidase I and NADH dehydrogenase 2 and nuclear introns of rhodopsin intron 1, tropomyosin alpha-subunit intron 5, and transforming growth factor ß-2) to generate phylogenetic hypotheses for the Psittaciformes. Analyses of the combined character partitions using maximum parsimony, maximum likelihood, and Bayesian criteria produced well-resolved and topologically similar trees in which the New Zealand taxa Strigops and Nestor (Psittacidae) were sister to all other psittaciforms and the cockatoo clade (Cacatuidae) was sister to a clade containing all remaining parrots (Psittacidae). Within this large clade of Psittacidae, some traditionally recognized tribes and subfamilies were monophyletic (e.g., Arini, Psittacini, and Loriinae), whereas several others were polyphyletic (e.g., Cyclopsittacini, Platycercini, Psittaculini, and Psittacinae). Ancestral area reconstructions using our Bayesian phylogenetic hypothesis and current distributions of genera supported the hypothesis of an Australasian origin for the Psittaciformes. Separate analyses of the timing of parrot diversification constructed with both Bayesian relaxed-clock and penalized likelihood approaches showed better agreement between geologic and diversification events in the chronograms based on a Cretaceous dating of the basal split within parrots than the chronograms based on a Tertiary dating of this split, although these data are more equivocal. Taken together, our results support a Cretaceous origin of Psittaciformes in Gondwana after the separation of Africa and the India/Madagascar block with subsequent diversification through both vicariance and dispersal. These well-resolved molecular phylogenies will be of value for comparative studies of behavior, ecology, and life history in parrots.
PMCID: PMC2727385  PMID: 18653733
Cretaceous origin; divergence times; Gondwanan distribution; K/T boundary; molecular phylogeny; parrot; Psittaciformes; Tertiary origin
21.  Multiple origins of parasitism in lice. 
A major fraction of the diversity of insects is parasitic, as herbivores, parasitoids or vertebrate ectopara sites. Understanding this diversity requires information on the origin of parasitism in various insect groups. Parasitic lice (Phthiraptera) are the only major group of insects in which all members are permanent parasites of birds or mammals. Lice are classified into a single order but are thought to be closely related to, or derived from, book lice and bark lice (Psocoptera). Here, we use sequences of the nuclear 18S rDNA gene to investigate the relationships among Phthiraptera and Psocoptera and to identify the origins of parasitism in this group (termed Psocodea). Maximum-likelihood (ML), Bayesian ML and parsimony analyses of these data indicate that lice are embedded within the psocopteran infraorder Nanopsocetae, making the order Psocoptera paraphyletic (i.e. does not contain all descendants of a single common ancestor). Furthermore, one family of Psocoptera, Liposcelididae, is identified as the sister taxon to the louse suborder Amblycera, making parasitic lice (Phthiraptera) a polyphyletic order (i.e. descended from two separate ancestors). We infer from these results that parasitism of vertebrates arose twice independently within Psocodea, once in the common ancestor of Amblycera and once in the common ancestor of all other parasitic lice.
PMCID: PMC1691793  PMID: 15315891
22.  Strong mitochondrial DNA support for a Cretaceous origin of modern avian lineages 
BMC Biology  2008;6:6.
Determining an absolute timescale for avian evolutionary history has proven contentious. The two sources of information available, paleontological data and inference from extant molecular genetic sequences (colloquially, 'rocks' and 'clocks'), have appeared irreconcilable; the fossil record supports a Cenozoic origin for most modern lineages, whereas molecular genetic estimates suggest that these same lineages originated deep within the Cretaceous and survived the K-Pg (Cretaceous-Paleogene; formerly Cretaceous-Tertiary or K-T) mass-extinction event. These two sources of data therefore appear to support fundamentally different models of avian evolution. The paradox has been speculated to reflect deficiencies in the fossil record, unrecognized biases in the treatment of genetic data or both. Here we attempt to explore uncertainty and limit bias entering into molecular divergence time estimates through: (i) improved taxon (n = 135) and character (n = 4594 bp mtDNA) sampling; (ii) inclusion of multiple cladistically tested internal fossil calibration points (n = 18); (iii) correction for lineage-specific rate heterogeneity using a variety of methods (n = 5); (iv) accommodation of uncertainty in tree topology; and (v) testing for possible effects of episodic evolution.
The various 'relaxed clock' methods all indicate that the major (basal) lineages of modern birds originated deep within the Cretaceous, although temporal intraordinal diversification patterns differ across methods. We find that topological uncertainty had a systematic but minor influence on date estimates for the origins of major clades, and Bayesian analyses assuming fixed topologies deliver similar results to analyses with unconstrained topologies. We also find that, contrary to expectation, rates of substitution are not autocorrelated across the tree in an ancestor-descendent fashion. Finally, we find no signature of episodic molecular evolution related to either speciation events or the K-Pg boundary that could systematically mislead inferences from genetic data.
The 'rock-clock' gap has been interpreted by some to be a result of the vagaries of molecular genetic divergence time estimates. However, despite measures to explore different forms of uncertainty in several key parameters, we fail to reconcile molecular genetic divergence time estimates with dates taken from the fossil record; instead, we find strong support for an ancient origin of modern bird lineages, with many extant orders and families arising in the mid-Cretaceous, consistent with previous molecular estimates. Although there is ample room for improvement on both sides of the 'rock-clock' divide (e.g. accounting for 'ghost' lineages in the fossil record and developing more realistic models of rate evolution for molecular genetic sequences), the consistent and conspicuous disagreement between these two sources of data more likely reflects a genuine difference between estimated ages of (i) stem-group origins and (ii) crown-group morphological diversifications, respectively. Further progress on this problem will benefit from greater communication between paleontologists and molecular phylogeneticists in accounting for error in avian lineage age estimates.
PMCID: PMC2267772  PMID: 18226223
23.  A well-preserved aneuretopsychid from the Jehol Biota of China (Insecta, Mecoptera, Aneuretopsychidae) 
ZooKeys  2011;17-28.
The Aneuretopsychidae is an unspeciose and enigmatic family of long-proboscid insects that presently consist of one known genus and three species from the Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous of north-central Asia. In this paper, a new genus and species of fossil aneuretopsychid is described and illustrated, Jeholopsyche liaoningensis gen. et sp. n. Fossils representing this new taxon were collected from mid Early Cretaceous strata of the well known Jehol Biota in Liaoning Province, China. This finding documents the first formal record of fossil Aneuretopsychidae in China. In addition, this well-preserved and new material reveals previously unknown and detailed morphological structure of the mouthparts, antennae, head, thorax, legs and abdomen of this distinctive insect lineage.
PMCID: PMC3175145  PMID: 21998553
Aneuretopsychidae; new genus; new species; proboscis; Yixian Formation; China; Early Cretaceous; pollination drops
24.  Repeated adaptive divergence of microhabitat specialization in avian feather lice 
BMC Biology  2012;10:52.
Repeated adaptive radiations are evident when phenotypic divergence occurs within lineages, but this divergence into different forms is convergent when compared across lineages. Classic examples of such repeated adaptive divergence occur in island (for example, Caribbean Anolis lizards) and lake systems (for example, African cichlids). Host-parasite systems in many respects are analogous to island systems, where host species represent isolated islands for parasites whose life cycle is highly tied to that of their hosts. Thus, host-parasite systems might exhibit interesting cases of repeated adaptive divergence as seen in island and lake systems.
The feather lice of birds spend their entire life cycle on the body of the host and occupy distinct microhabitats on the host: head, wing, body and generalist. These microhabitat specialists show pronounced morphological differences corresponding to how they escape from host preening. We tested whether these different microhabitat specialists were a case of repeated adaptive divergence by constructing both morphological and molecular phylogenies for a diversity of avian feather lice, including many examples of head, wing, body and generalist forms.
Morphological and molecular based phylogenies were highly incongruent, which could be explained by rampant convergence in morphology related to microhabitat specialization on the host. In many cases lice from different microhabitat specializations, but from the same group of birds, were sister taxa.
This pattern indicates a process of repeated adaptive divergence of these parasites within host group, but convergence when comparing parasites across host groups. These results suggest that host-parasite systems might be another case in which repeated adaptive radiations could be relatively common, but potentially overlooked, because morphological convergence can obscure evolutionary relationships.
PMCID: PMC3391173  PMID: 22717002
adaptive radiation; convergence; Phthiraptera; ectoparasites; phylogenetics
25.  Amazonian Head Lice-Specific Genotypes Are Putatively Pre-Columbian 
Head and body lice are strict obligate human ectoparasites with three mitochondrial phylotypes (A, B, and C). Using molecular methods for genotyping lice (Cytochrome b and multi-spacer typing), and comparing our results with all the sequences of human lice that were genotyped previously, we assessed the presence of a specific American genotype that most likely predates the Columbian era in head lice collected from Amazonia.
PMCID: PMC3752820  PMID: 23610158

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