E&E PhD Exit Seminar: Phylogeny and systematics of the longhorn beetle genus Rhytiphora

© Allen Michael Sundholm, 2013.

The taxonomy and phylogenetic relationships of longhorn beetles have been debated for decades, with neither morphological nor molecular data reaching a consistent solution. Rhytiphora, the largest Australian genus of the subfamily Lamiinae, is no exception. The current concept of the genus encompasses around 200 species (from nearly 40 former genera), united by a putative apomorphy: setose patches on the male abdomen, probably for dispersing pheromones.

I sequenced multiple nuclear loci from museum specimens to produce the first molecular phylogeny of the Australasian Lamiinae, placing Rhytiphora in a broader context and revealing the complex biogeographic history of the Australasian longhorn beetles. I then used mitochondrial loci to sample Rhytiphora more deeply, examining patterns of morphology and biome distributions within the genus. Finally, I undertook a taxonomic revision of Rhytiphora, clarifying species complexes and identifying undescribed species. My results shed light on an important part of Australia’s insect fauna, and help to resolve long-standing taxonomic issues in the most diverse group of animals.