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The early wasp plucks the flower: disparate extant diversity of sawfly superfamilies (Hymenoptera: "Symphyta') may reflect asynchronous switching to angiosperm hosts

Journal article
Authors T. Nyman
R. E. Onstein
Daniele Silvestro
S. Wutke
A. Taeger
N. Wahlberg
S. M. Blank
T. Malm
Published in Biological Journal of the Linnean Society
Volume 128
Issue 1
Pages 1-19
ISSN 0024-4066
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Pages 1-19
Language en
Keywords diversification rates, flowering plants, insect-plant interactions, macroevolution, mass extinctions, trait-dependent speciation, diversification shifts, plant associations, bayesian-analysis, species richness, extinction rates, r package, evolution, phylogeny, radiation, Evolutionary Biology
Subject categories Evolutionary Biology


The insect order Hymenoptera originated during the Permian nearly 300 Mya. Ancestrally herbivorous hymenopteran lineages today make up the paraphyletic suborder Symphyta', which encompasses c. 8200 species with very diverse host-plant associations. We use phylogeny-based statistical analyses to explore the drivers of diversity dynamics within the Symphyta', with a particular focus on the hypothesis that diversification of herbivorous insects has been driven by the explosive radiation of angiosperms during and after the Cretaceous. Our ancestral-state estimates reveal that the first symphytans fed on gymnosperms, and that shifts onto angiosperms and pteridophytes - and back - have occurred at different time intervals in different groups. Trait-dependent analyses indicate that average net diversification rates do not differ between symphytan lineages feeding on angiosperms, gymnosperms or pteridophytes, but trait-independent models show that the highest diversification rates are found in a few angiosperm-feeding lineages that may have been favoured by the radiations of their host taxa during the Cenozoic. Intriguingly, lineages-through-time plots show signs of an early Cretaceous mass extinction, with a recovery starting first in angiosperm-associated clades. Hence, the oft-invoked assumption of herbivore diversification driven by the rise of flowering plants may overlook a Cretaceous global turnover in insect herbivore communities during the rapid displacement of gymnosperm- and pteridophyte-dominated floras by angiosperms.

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