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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Systematic Entomology Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #404763

Research Project: Systematics of Acari and Hemiptera: Plant Pests, Predators, and Disease Vectors

Location: Systematic Entomology Laboratory

Title: Where Eriophyoidea (Acariformes) belong in the tree of life

item BOLTON, S - Florida Department Of Agriculture
item CHETVERIKOV, P - Russian Academy Of Sciences
item Ochoa, Ronald - Ron
item KLIMOV, PAVEL - Purdue University

Submitted to: Insects
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/26/2023
Publication Date: 6/6/2023
Citation: Bolton, S.J., Chetverikov, P.E., Ochoa, R., Klimov, P. 2023. Where Eriophyoidea (Acariformes) belong in the tree of life. Insects. 14(527):1-9.

Interpretive Summary: Mites are abundant and diverse, with one particularly peculiar group being eriophyoid mites. These tiny, worm-shaped pests cause significant damage to various plants worldwide, making it crucial to understand their position in the tree of life. This research paper addresses previous errors and misinterpretations in the phylogenetic analysis of eriophyoid mites. By examining both morphological characters and molecular data, the study concludes that these mites are closely related to a group called dragon mites. Both groups share unique similarities, such as their worm-shaped bodies and the absence of specific sensory organs. Understanding eriophyoid mite phylogeny is essential for future research on mite-plant evolution patterns, making this study important for scientists, ecologists, biologists, and those in evolutionary studies.

Technical Abstract: Eriophyoidea (four-legged, vermiform, plant-feeding mites) represent one of the most economically damaging groups of phytophagous mites. Over the past century and a half, the taxonomic placement of this group has been in flux. For much of this period Eriophyoidea has been treated as a subtaxon within Trombidiformes. However, nearly all recent phylogenetic analyses place this group outside Trombidiformes. The few studies that still place Eriophyoidea within Trombidiformes are likely to be biased by incomplete taxon/gene sampling, long branch attraction, the omission of RNA secondary structure in sequence alignment, and the inclusion of hypervariable expansion-contraction rRNA regions. Based on the agreement among a number of independent analyses that use a range of different datasets (morphology; multiple genes; mitochondrial/whole genomes), Eriophyoidea are almost certain to be closely related to Nematalycidae, a family of vermiform mites within Endeostigmata, a basal acariform grade. Much of the morphological evidence in support of this relationship was apparent after the discovery of Nematalycidae in the middle of the 20th century. But this evidence has largely been disregarded until very recently, perhaps because of overconfidence in the placement of Eriophyoidea within Trombidiformes. Here, we briefly review and identify a number of biases, both molecular and morphology based, that can lead to erroneous reconstructions of the position of Eriophyoidea on the tree of life.