Okay, it’s been over a month since our last “weekly reads” post. Where does the time go?! Well, it goes into grant writing, teaching, administering candidacy exams, editing manuscripts, paperwork, peer reviews, workshops, international congresses, phone dropping and breaking (which I needed for Penn State’s 2-factor authentication … sigh), etc. Here are the updates I neglected to post until now —ARD
Carolyn: Recently I found a paper about wing shape in parasitoids and how it is affected by the quality of the host they develop in. Since an organism’s phenotype can be impacted by both its genotype and the environment the organism develops in, it is important to distinguish whether phenotypic differences are based on the genotype or the environment, especially when you are using phenotypes to distinguish between species. In this paper, they found that the wing shape in an aphiidine braconid species, Lysiphlebus fabarum, did not exhibit host-induced phenotypic plasticity, which means that wing shape factor is a stable character that could be used for distinguishing between different species of aphid parasitoids.
While sorting through my ICE notes and following up on connections, I also happened upon a paper by Norman Johnson about Lubomír Masner, written in appreciation of him for his 75th birthday. I am glad that I found this paper. I did not realize that yellow pan trapping was originally used for aphid sampling, and that Lubo is the one who discovered that it worked well for microhymenoptera and adjusted the technique for our purposes. This is one of our most successful sampling methods, and we wouldn’t have it if not for Lubo. I knew that Lubo is one of the greatest hymenopterists alive, and that he has changed how people study microhymenoptera, but I did not realize just how many different ways he has influenced the research I do now.
I also finished Books IV-VII of Aristotle’s History of Animals, and I have to say that it is an absolutely fascinating read! I think it is incredible that although the work is from 4th century BC, it contains an accurate description of how female octopi guard their eggs at the cost of maintaining their own body condition. He accurately describes the life cycle of cicadas as well as metamorphosis in butterflies. He even describes aquatic larvae and how adult flies emerge from the water. However, he believes that only some insects reproduce sexually, and that the rest are born from spontaneous generation, providing a long list of which materials spontaneously generate different insects. For example, he was not aware of pollination, and while he does mention that drones do not have stingers, he thought that flowers produced bee larvae, and that bees visited flowers to retrieve their young. He also thought that honey was produced from the sky in minuscule amounts, and that only bees were able to gather these droplets and store them in the hives.
Emily: This paper by Graham et al. (2004) explores the incorporation of phylogenetics and niche modeling to see where speciation is occurring and the geographic factors that are driving it. In looking at the distributions of species, it is possible to see if sister species are allopatric or sympatric in origin. By adding the niche model, it is possible to tease apart the environmental variables driving the speciation. They also added elevation layers into their models, which is definitely something that is underincorporated in modeling / georeferencing, but is likely very revealing for some taxa. A PCA was used to examine the overlap between the phylogenetic trees and the niche models. While this research focused on frogs, I could see how it could be useful to do something similar for winged insects-layering phylogenetic data with a niche model.
[Notes from the preceding week …] There is so much unknown about Odonata, even though over 6,000 species are described. Of particular potential for discovery include the relationship between odonate evolution and ecology, though there has not been huge emphasis on this work. Genetic resources are spotty for much of the diversity of this group, and there is known to be a tenfold difference in genomes between species. While there is relatively strong support for the phylogeny of the order, there is much more to dive into within families, particularly outside of tropical species. The 1KITE project aims to get transcriptomes for 107 species, but this will not cover all of the families.
The interplay between the habitats in which they live during their lives leads to myriad questions about their movements and interactions with a changing planet, something I am certainly interested in within my own research. The genetics underlying their sexual variation, physiology, and phenotypic plasticity are also areas of great potential. With their large size and dispersal around the globe, the possibilities are endless for research in this order. This paper by Bybee et al. (2016) definitely gives me hope that I will be able to make some awesome discoveries during my PhD, even if I am not exactly sure where to begin!
Andy: This time of year my reading is mostly focused on papers that are relevant to ENT 432, including the re-reading of some classics on insect diversity and evolution. There are too many to list, but the highlights for me include Hugh Glasgow’s work on Heteroptera guts (1914; I also read his dissertation from 1913) and Angela Douglas‘s review of mycetocytes (She was here this week as a seminar speaker!). I definitely could do a better job of addressing the importance of symbionts and mutualisms in the evolution of Insecta.
I also tried reading and synthesizing the evolution of Aculeata and of eusociality in Hymenoptera. As a hymenopterist (but a parasitoid person) I admit that I could/should know these stories better. The sting’s the thing (Starr (1985)), in my opinion, along with many, many, many other factors.