Collaborative Research: Large-Scale Phylogeny of Hymenoptera

  • Sharkey, Michael (PI)

Grants and Contracts Details


A grant has been awarded to Dr. Michael J. Sharkey of the University of Kentucky for a large-scale study of the evolutionary history of the Hymenoptera - the order of insects containing the ants, bees and wasps. With more than 115,000 described species, this order includes as much as 10% of the species diversity of the planet, with estimates ranging between 0.3 and 2.5 million species. Students and postgraduate researchers will be involved in a collaborative effort with a large array of international scientists. We will trace the history of this group using both anatomical and molecular data, to produce a well supported evolutionary hypothesis at the taxonomic level of family. The final analyses will have up to 2,000 species, representing all hymenopteran families and subfamilies. Because most anatomical features we will study will not vary at the taxonomic level of genus, we will implicitly be including all species that have adequate descriptions and share the anatomical traits used in the analysis. Published products will include a series of monographs and two books on the phylogeny of Hymenoptera, an interactive electronic key to Hymenoptera families, access to detailed morphological images through World Wide Web, and access to all the anatomical and molecular data for all Hymenoptera. Economically and ecologically, Hymenoptera are one of the most important groups of organisms. Some are severe economic pests threatening both the forest industry and wheat farming (sawflies), medical and noxious pests of urban landscapes (social wasps and ants), pollinators (bees), and defenders of our agricultural crops through their ability to parasitize and control pest insects (most parasitic wasps). Knowledge of the evolution of the entire order is extremely important for placing taxa within a correct context for more limited studies of behavior, host associations and ability to discover novel pest control agents.
Effective start/end date12/1/0311/30/09


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