, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 211-223

Molecular phylogeny of the homoptera: a paraphyletic taxon

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Homoptera and Heteroptera comprise a large insect assemblage, the Hemiptera. Many of the plant sap-sucking Homoptera possess unusual and complex life histories and depend on maternally inherited, intracellular bacteria to supplement their nutritionally deficient diets. Presumably in connection with their diet and lifestyles, the morphology of many Homoptera has become greatly reduced, leading to major controversies regarding the phylogenetic affiliations of homopteran superfamilies. The most fundamental question concerns whether the Homoptera as a whole are monophyletic. Recent studies based on morphology have argued that the Homoptera Sternorrhyncha (Aphidoidea, Coccoidea, Psylloidea, Aleyrodoidea) is a sister group to a group comprising the Homoptera Auchenorrhyncha (Fulgoroidea, Cicadoidea, Cercopoidea, Cicadelloidea) and the Heteroptera, making the Homoptera paraphyletic. We sequenced the 5′ 580-680 base pairs of small-subunit (18S) ribosomal DNA from a selection of Homoptera, Hemiptera, and their putative outgroups, the Thysanoptera and Psocoptera, to apply molecular characters to the problem of Homoptera phylogeny. Parsimony, distance, maximum-likelihood, and bootstrap methods were used to construct trees from sequence data and assess support for the topologies produced. Molecular data corroborate current views of relationships within the Sternorrhyncha and Auchenorrhyncha based on morphology and strongly support the hypothesis of homopteran paraphyly as stated above. In addition, it was found that Homoptera Sternorrhyncha have extra, GC-rich sequence concentrated in a variable region of the 18S rDNA, which indicates that some unique evolutionary processes are occurring in this lineage.

Correspondence to: C.D. von Dohlen