About the Tabanid PEET
Taxonomic, Phylogenetic, and Evolutionary Studies of Horse flies (Diptera: Tabanidae): An Integrated Approach to Systematics Training
Partnerships for Enhancing Expertise in Taxonomy – NSF DEB 0731528
Current status: Funded, September 1, 2008
Year 1 Report: pdf
The National Science Foundation PEET Program is designed to train new experts in taxonomic groups for which expertise is waning. Although horse flies are one of only a few flies that can be named by the average layman, surprisingly little is known about this group worldwide.
The fly family Tabanidae (horse flies) includes an estimated 4500 extant species distributed throughout the world. Nearly all are blood-feeders as adults, but many are also important pollinators of angiosperm flowers. The biology and taxonomy of horse flies has an important historical legacy, but modern phylogenetics-based revisionary work has lagged behind other dipteran groups due to a generational reduction in the number of horse fly taxonomists and to a perceived "difficult" morphology which is often homogeneous for many standard dipteran characters (e.g., male genitalia) and/or highly adapted in others (floral-associated features). Current classifications are heavily biased by several large traditional genera, while many smaller groups need to be addressed to provide context and new characters from which more comprehensive phylogenetic revision can proceed. Our proposed study will integrate modern tools and practices in taxonomy and systematics to address the need for increased attention to horse fly biodiversity and classification. Our research team extends a successful collaborative framework with expertise in monographic, phylogenetic, and bioinformatic data generation, and builds on active workflows initiated by previous PEET projects (Therevid PEET; Mandala database project, and the FLYTREE ATOL.
Our projects are designed to produce phylogenetic assessment and monographic revision of key groups of Tabanidae while encouraging both mentorship and collaboration amongst the trainees. In addition to their taxonomic work, each trainee will be asked to specialize in one of three general areas: bioinformatics techniques, computational analytical techniques or outreach methods. As they develop in these areas, they will be expected to mentor each other in their chosen expertise and to ultimately produce an output product that can be publicly disseminated. If you are interested in becoming a Tabanid PEET student, please contact Brian Wiegmann or Shelah Morita.
Some potential/active taxonomic projects are as follows:
1. Phylogeny of subfamilial groups in Tabanidae. The phylogenetic status of generic groups within Tabanidae can only be inferred from the current Linnaean hierarchy at this time. Therefore, the S. Morita will generate a higher-level assessment of subfamilies (3-4), tribes (9-12) and genera (144) with focus on placement of genera (to be revised below) within the tribes and rare genera, if possible.
2. Generic monographic revisions. Our goal is to produce at least two, optimally three, monographic revisions for each of the three currently accepted subfamilies. Higher level context and outgroup choice will be aided by the study above. Projects marked with an asterisk (*) are top priority. Abbreviations for distributions below are NT=Neotropical, AU= Australasian, AF=Afrotropical, OR= Oriential, NE= Nearctic, PA= Palearctic.
Tabaninae. Focus in this subfamily will center on the tribe Diachlorini, the suggested sister tribe to the rest of the subfamily (Morita 2007a,b,c). This group deserves close examination based on recent changes in classification (Trojan 1997).
Chrysopsinae Considered the most derived group of Chrysopsinae by previous authors, recent evidence (Morita 2007a) supports Chrysops and Silvius as sister to the rest of the subfamily. Understanding the true nature of the large genus Chrysops will be pivotal to assessing the questioned monophyly of this subfamily (Morita 2007a,b,c).
Pangoniinae This subfamily, believed to exhibit pleisiomorphic characters for Tabanidae, contains groups with highly specialized floral associated morphology. Revisionary work in Philoliche and long-proboscis groups in other tribes will allow S. Morita to test Mackerras’ (1954) hypothesis about multiple evolutions of floral specialization.
Morita, S.I. 2008. A phylogeny of long-tongued horse flies (Philoliche, Diptera:Tabanidae) with the first cladistic evaluation of higher relationships within the family. Invertebrate Systematics, 22(3): 311-327. (Abstract)
Morita, S.I. 2008. A revision of the Philoliche aethiopica species complex. African Invertebrates, 49: 129-158. (Abstract)
Morita, S.I. (2007c, manuscript). Multiple evolutions of both long- and short-proboscis morphology in long-tongued horse flies (Diptera: Tabanidae).