CIE Spotlight: Evolutionary history of a secondary terrestrial Australian diving beetle reveals a lineage of high morphological and ecological plasticity

Nicholas P.
Nicholas P.

Title: Evolutionary history of a secondary terrestrial Australian diving beetle (Coleoptera, Dytiscidae) reveals a lineage of high morphological and ecological plasticity

Authors: Toussaint, Emmanuel F. A.; Hendrich, Lars; Escalona, Hermes E.; Porch, Nick; Balke, Michael

Source: SYSTEMATIC ENTOMOLOGY, 41 (3):650-657, JUL 2016

Brief summary of the paper: The evolution of a secondary terrestrial lifestyle in diving beetles (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae) has never been analysed in a phylogenetic framework before.

Here we study Terradessus caecus Watts, a terrestrial species of the subfamily Hydroporinae endemic to Australia. We infer its phylogenetic placement using Bayesian inference and maximum-likelihood methods based on a multilocus molecular dataset. We also investigate the divergence time estimates of this lineage using a Bayesian relaxed clock approach. Finally, we infer ancestral ecological preferences using a likelihood approach.

We recover T. caecus nested in the genus Paroster Sharp with strong support. Therefore, we establish a synonymy for both species of Terradessus with Paroster: Paroster caecus (Watts) n.comb. and Paroster anophthalmus (Brancucci & Monteith) n.comb. Parosteris an endemic Australian genus that has a remarkable number of subterranean species in underground aquifers with highly derived morphologies.

Our results highlight one of the most remarkable radiations of aquatic beetles with independent ecological pathways likely linked to palaeoclimatic disruptions in the Neogene. Paroster caecus (Watts) n.comb. originated from a mid-Miocene split following the onset of an aridification episode that has been ongoing to the present day. The deep changes in ecological communities in association with the drying-out of palaeodrainage systems might have pushed this lineage to colonize a new niche in terrestrial habitats.