Masters Thesis

A Preliminary molecular phylogeny of the ant-decapitating flies, genus Apocephalus (Diptera: Phoridae)

The phorid fly genus Apocephalus is the largest assemblage of ant-parasitizing Phoridae. Apocephalus is currently organized into two subgenera: A. (Apocephalus) and A. (Mesophora). The species of A. (Mesophora) attack a wide variety of non-ant hosts including stingless bees, spiders, wasps, bumble bees, and cantharoid beetles. The species of A. (Apocephalus) are the true “ant-decapitating flies” and are divided into six species groups: the A. attophilus group (parasitoids of attine leaf-cutting ants), “A. miricauda group” (parasitoids of ponerine ants), A. pergandei group (parasitoids of Camponotus carpenter ants), A. mucronatus group, A. feeneri group, and A. grandipalpus group. Here I report on a preliminary molecular phylogenetic study of Apocephalus, including representatives of both subgenera and exemplars of five currently recognized species groups. Maximum parsimony, maximum likelihood, and Bayesian phylogenies were inferred using four nuclear (AK, TPI, CAD, 28S) and four mitochondrial (12S, 16S, COI, ND1) gene fragments (4284 bp total). For all analyses Apocephalus was recovered as a monophyletic group relative to the outgroup taxa included in the study. In addition, subgenus A. (Mesophora) was recovered as a monophyletic group, but was not a sister group to the subgenus A. (Apocephalus).A phylogenetic hypothesis for exemplars of five Apocephalus species groups is presented and compared to hypotheses based on morphology.

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