E&E PhD Exit Seminar: Small insects, Big pattern: ecomorphological evolution of a hyperdiverse beetle radiation

Beetles account for almost one quarter of all living species on earth. Yet, the drivers of this superradiation remain unclear. Previous studies have centred on morphological innovation, co-evolution with angiosperms or diversification into a variety of niches as potential causes. However, the contribution of each factor likely varies among lineages, across geographical space and throughout evolutionary timescales. In this seminar, I will explore this issue by focusing on a hyperdiverse beetle radiation, darkling beetles (Tenebrionidae). Arguably one of the most ecologically diverse insect family, darkling beetles have radiated explosively into all terrestrial niches. With over 20,000 species worldwide, they constitute a major component of arthropod fauna in arid biomes, but they are also particularly diverse in mesic environments. I will start by establishing a phylogenomic backbone and identifying the broad pattern of ecomorphological evolution for this global mega-radiation. Then, we will shift our focus to the red centre of Australia, where the adaptive radiation of ‘Pie-dish’ beetles unfolded over the last 20 million years. Last, we will zoom into the lush rainforest of Australian Wet Tropics. Here, a flightless genus Apterotheca has rapidly radiated into more than 50 micro-endemic species on mountain peaks. Hope this talk will not just offer you a little piece of science, but also make you appreciate a bit more of these marvellous little creatures!