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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Systematic Entomology Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #386258

Research Project: Systematics of Beetles (Coleoptera) in Support of U.S. Agriculture, Arboriculture, and Biological Control of Pests

Location: Systematic Entomology Laboratory

Title: Multiple origins of moss-inhabiting flea beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae): molecular phylogeny, overview of genera and a new genus from Africa

item DAMASKA, ALBERT - Charles University, Czech Republic
item Konstantinov, Alexander - Alex
item FIKACEK, M. - Charles University, Czech Republic

Submitted to: ZooKeys
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/23/2021
Publication Date: 2/7/2022
Citation: Damaska, A., Konstantinov, A.S., Fikacek, M. 2022. Multiple origins of moss-inhabiting flea beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae): molecular phylogeny, overview of genera and a new genus from Africa. ZooKeys. 1-30.

Interpretive Summary: Leaf beetles, especially flea beetles, are among the most important insects for U.S. agriculture. Many are serious pests and feed on crops destroying valuable plants costing millions of dollars annually. Others are important biological control agents that can be used to control unwanted and invasive weeds. This work for the first time examines relationships of flea beetles that occur in moss cushions in around the world based on sequences of mitochondrial and nuclear genes. It presents a scenario for flea beetle evolution, migration over time from feeding on leaf surface to substrates such as moss cushions and proposes a hypothesis of evolutionary history of moss inhabiting flea beetles. The study will be useful to biological control workers, evolutionary biologists, ecologists, and anyone interested in plant-feeding beetles

Technical Abstract: Flea beetles (Alticini) are an evolutionary successful diverse lineage of leaf beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). They are famous for the jumping behavior which evolved to avoid predators when feeding of leaf surfaces of mostly vascular plants. The association with mosses, both as a cryptic environment and a food source, is an alternative life strategy which is rather widespread in the group. The shift from surface plant feeding to cryptic moss-association is often accompanied with changes in morphology and biology, yet little is known about its evolutionary origin. In this study, we present the first comprehensive phylogenetic assessment of flea beetles including 13 moss-inhabiting genera. We show that the association with mosses is a common phenomenon in Alticini, present across the phylogenetic tree of the lineage. We revealed at least nine independent origins of the association with moss, and four independent origins of even more cryptic leaf-litter-inhabiting life strategy. We illustrate that both cryptic lifestyle strategies induce parallel evolution of similar ecomorphological adaptations. We provide a short overview of all moss-inhabiting lineages of flea beetles known at the moment, including the first moss-associated lineage discovered in tropical Africa described here as Benedictoides munclingeri gen. & sp. nov. We also discuss perspectives of the systematics of moss-inhabiting lineages of flea beetles resulting from our phylogenetic study.