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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Systematic Entomology Laboratory » Research » Research Project #429166

Research Project: Beetle Taxonomy and Systematics Supporting U.S. Agriculture, Arboriculture and Biological Control

Location: Systematic Entomology Laboratory

2018 Annual Report

Objective 1: Collect, document and classify Oriental flea beetle genera, analyze their morphological and molecular characters, and assemble characters of value for accurately identifying adults and establishing relationships (NP304, Component 1, Problem Statement 1A). Objective 2: Discover novel morphological and molecular characters for Neotropical longhorned woodboring beetle species and genera and develop new classifications, descriptions, and identification tools based on these discoveries (NP304, Component 1, Problem Statement 1A). Objective 3: Determine the generic limits in at least two weevil groups (palm weevils and citrus root weevils) through a combined analysis of DNA and morphology and develop fully illustrated revisions, identifications keys, and updated classifications and species catalogs based on these studies (NP304, Component 1, Problem Statement 1A). Objective 4: Provide identifications of beetles, including plant-feeders, wood-borers, and others of agricultural, economic and environmental importance (NP304, Component 1, Problem Statement 1A; Component 3, Subcomponent 3B, Problem Statement 3B1).

Research outlined in the plan will culminate in leading edge diagnostic tools that will allow partners and beneficiaries such as the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the Department of Homeland Security, state departments of agriculture, foreign and domestic biological control labs, and researchers, colleagues, and citizens throughout the U.S. and abroad, to accurately identify beetle groups of exceptional importance (flea beetles, longhorned woodborers, and weevils). Accurate species determinations are critical for every biological and systematic study, especially since there may be regulatory actions based on the identifications or biosecurity implications (Gregory, et al., 2005). By broadly providing research outputs the public, teaching workshops, training other researchers, building government databases on invasive and native species, a potential benefit is to help prevent the spread of invasive species. Through these activities, the problem of declining systematic expertise described in the recent Federal Interagency Committee report on Invasive Terrestrial Animals and Pathogens (ITAP, 2008) will be addressed. Beetles important as control agents of weeds and plant pests will be identified and characterized so they can be used effectively by biological control workers. The wealth of new information prepared for poorly known groups of beetles will have a broader effect on other research on biology, ecology, and biodiversity of beetles. The products of the proposed research will include pictorial guides, keys to accurately identify flea beetles, longhorned woodboring beetles, and weevils, and catalogues and databases for these groups. Examples will include identification tools such as a field guide to the Cerambycidae of the Dominican Republic, LucID websites and keys (including Oriental flea beetles; longhorned beetle tribes), and revisions of beetle taxa, including Elaphidion (Cerambycidae), Monomacra (Chrysomelidae), Diaprepres and Compsus (Curculionidae). Other publications will be produced that focus on descriptions of new species of these groups from Asia and the Neotropical Regions. Still other publications will include catalogs (Dryophthorinae, Oriental flea beetle genera). This project will increase beetle representation in the U.S. National Insect Collection, help build the scanned resources as part of the Biodiversity Heritage Library, build photographic type specimen databases, and lead to regional species inventories and catalogs for use in conservation and management of native landscapes and natural habitats.

Progress Report
Progress was made in objectives all of which fall under National Program 304, Component 1, Systematics and Identification, Problem Statement 1A, Insects and Mites. In regards to Objective 1, during the past year, ARS researchers in Washington, D.C. (Smithsonian Institution), continued to develop a revisionary study of Oriental flea beetle genera and continued work towards a LucID identification guide for the Oriental flea beetles. Essential morphological structures of flea beetles have been studied and partly illustrated and 3 new genera with 21 species previously unknown to science have been discovered, described, and illustrated. Seven genera have been added to a LucID guide and Oriental flea beetle database. Species rich genus Chaetocnema with 85 species, 19 of which are new to science, have been revised in the Oriental Region. A major study of a previously unknown king of mimicry have been conducted, completed and published in collaboration with computer scientists and vision engineers from Georgia Tech and evolutionary biologists from Stony Brooke University. Additional funding was necessary to travel and collect material in unrepresented parts of Asia. These resulting publications and database are critical to APHIS-PPQ and other regulatory agencies to prevent the spread of pest species into the U.S. and better use biological control agents. Objective 2 has not seen progress during the past year as it was terminated due to a scientist resignation. In regards to Objective 3, ARS scientists continued to provide diagnostic tools and a comprehensive, integrative approach towards inferring Dryophthorinae phylogeny. The immature stages of all known Dryophthorinae genera, 34 total, were studied. This includes the description, for the first time of known pests of valuable commodities, such as cut flowers and legumes. The immature stage is usually the most destructive. Research consisted of dissecting, illustrating, and coding of morphological characters, many of which were newly discovered. Characters of the immature stages are generally slow evolving and provide signal towards resolving deeper splits in the evolutionary tree. To determine potential invasibility of Dryophthorinae, as well as to develop predictive models of a species’ invasive potential, understanding successful traits of invaders and gaining insight into possible vectors of invasives, we submitted for publication a list of potentially invasive dryophthorinae species (this study resulted from an invited presentation delivered at an international conference) and the phylogeny of Dryopthorinae based on two genes. This research was based on 20,377 weevil identification requests made to our laboratory over a 36 year period submitted mostly by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). These samples are the result of interceptions at U.S. ports of entry nationwide and provide a rich source of comprehensive data necessary towards making these predictions. Thirty-two of the 148 genera and at least 89 species and subspecies of Dryophthorinae have been intercepted. Field work was undertaken in Hawaii for a 2-week period to obtain fresh material for molecular and morphological studies and host-plant and biological information on Dryophthorinae. This trip strengthened collaboration with researchers in Hawaii. Additional field work in the Hawaiian archipelago is required to fully explore the diversity of Dryophthorinae of the region. SEL partnered with Global Genome Initiative (GGI), Smithsonian Institution Barcode Network (SIBN) and the University of Guelph to barcode, using Next-Generation Sequencing technology, USNM Coleoptera genera that are not barcoded (Barcode of Life Database -BOLD) and not in the Global Genome Biodiversity Network (GGBN). Currently approximately 750 weevils are being databased, imaged and sampled. Additional research, not directly linked to the OSQR, was conducted in order to address pressing agricultural concerns related to weevils. These include: In collaboration with the British Museum of Natural History in London, the taxonomy of Conotrachelus posticatus weevil species group was investigated in order to authoritatively identify a weevil pest intercepted with avocados from Mexico. The final identity of this weevil may have the potential to influence National Inspection Service policy as it relates to avocados. The recent realization of the possible extinction of the greater chestnut weevil, catapulted our study towards providing a fully illustrated identification resource to unequivocally determine species of the notoriously taxonomically difficult genus Curculio from the Northeastern United States. This is a collaborative project with the Canadian Museum of Nature. This study will include the first illustrated key for the group and approximately 2,000 examined specimen records and updated, real-time maps/distribution data for each species, hosted by the Weevils of North America web portal. Work is currently in press. Morphological plasticity of adult populations of Annual Bluegrass Weevil (ABW) (Listronotus maculicollis), led to the investigation with researchers at South Carolina State University based on molecular and morphological data, on the species limits of this species and the closely related L. anthracinus. ABW is the most significant pest of turf grass in Eastern United States. Research continues on the long-distance migratory dispersal of malaria vectors and other arthropods over the Sahel, Mali, in collaboration with entomologists at the National Institutes of Health and Mali scientists. In collaboration with scientists in Arizona and Guatemala and after the discovery of a number of cactus weevil species that may be threatened due to the loss of their endangered host-cactus species, we initiated the description of 35 new species of cactus weevils in the genus Gerstaeckeria. Of these species new to science, approximately ten are from the United States. Progress was made in Objective 4, which falls under National Program 304; Component 3, Insects and Mites; Subcomponent 3B, Natural Ecosystems; Problem Statement 3B1, Early detection and prevention of both invasive and native insect and mite pests. During the past year, ARS researchers in Beltsville, Maryland (Smithsonian Institution), completed identifications of beetles, including those intercepted at all ports-of-entry into the U.S., and those submitted to the laboratory by universities and agricultural extension agencies, and entered the data in the Systematic Entomology Laboratory Identification System. Significant numbers of beetle identifications have been made. In the period from October 1, 2017 to June 13, 2018, 2,627 submittal lots (3,597 specimens) were identified, including 1,757 “urgent”, 870 “prompt and “routine” submittals for USDA-APHIS-PPQ of specimens intercepted on perishable commodities at ports of entry. “Urgent” identifications (those requiring same day turn-around of specimens intercepted on perishable commodities at ports of entry) have been processed daily as submitted. Obstacles to achieving this milestone include shortness of staff specialists to perform identifications, diversion of scientific staff to perform technical and IT functions due to loss of former positions, and loss of collaborating specialists who formerly handled regular lots for some groups. These identifications are critical to APHIS-PPQ, regulatory agencies, universities and state extension agencies.

1. Strategies used by beetle pests to avoid their natural enemies. General patterns are rarely observed in nature. ARS researchers in Washington, D.C., have discovered a major, highly effective evolutionary adaptation that enables leaf beetles that feed on leaf surfaces of their host plants to escape predation. The adaptation is a previously overlooked type of masquerade mimicry, named “self-portrait mimicry,” under which beetles have recurrently evolved a close resemblance to decoy objects of their own manufacture, i.e. their own feeding damage. Two evolutionary processes are at play here: leaf beetle bodies evolve to resemble their feeding damage and their feeding habits evolve to produce damage that resembles their own bodies. Our observations suggest that self-portrait mimicry is prevalent among leaf beetles and, in combination with their jumping ability, may be responsible for their evolutionary success and hyper species diversity. Understanding evolutionary strategies used by beetle pests to avoid predation helps to find effective measures to control them.

Review Publications
Korotyaev, B.A., Konstantinov, A.S., Volkovitsh, M.G. 2017. Insect biodiversity in the Palearctic Region. Insect Biodiversity: Science and Society. 1:141-201.
Yong-Ying, R., Konstantinov, A.S., Prathapan, K.D., Xing-Ke, Y. 2017. Contributions to the knowledge of Chinese flea beetle fauna (II): Baoshanaltica new genus and Sinosphaera new genus (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Galerucinae: Alticini). ZooKeys. 720:103-120.
Bezdek, J., Konstantinov, A.S. 2017. Forgotten Aulacothorax Boheman, 1858, a senior synonym of Orthaltica Crotch, 1873 (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Galerucinae: Alticini). The Coleopterists Bulletin. 7(1):1-5.
Konstantinov, A.S., Prathapan, K.D. 2018. Hiding in plain sight: leaf beetles (Chrysomelidae: Galerucinae) use feeding damage as a masquerade decoy. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, London. 123:311-320.
Takizawa, H., Konstantinov, A.S. 2018. The genus Ivalia Jacoby 1887 (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Galerucinae: Alticini) of the mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. Journal of Insect Biodiversity. 6(1):1-23.
Ruan, Y., Konstantinov, A.S., Prathapan, K.D., Zhang, M., Xing-Ke, Y. 2018. New contributions to the knowledge of Chinese flea beetle fauna (III): Revision of Meishania Chen & Wang with description of five new species (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Galerucinae). ZooKeys. 4403(1):186-200.
Linzmeier, A.M., Konstantinov, A.S. 2018. Andersonoplatus, a new, remarkable, leaf litter inhabiting genus of Monoplatina (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Galerucinae: Alticini). ZooKeys. 744:79-138.
Jing Ren, De Gunten, N., Konstantinov, A.S., Hu, D., Si-Qinge 2018. Camouflage feeding: leaf bite patterns are proportional to beetle body size. Zootaxa. 35:199-207.