Evolution of the assassin's arms: Insights from a phylogeny of combined transcriptomic and ribosomal DNA data (Heteroptera: Reduvioidea)

Junxia Zhang, Eric R.L. Gordon, Michael Forthman, Wei Song Hwang, Kim Walden, Daniel R. Swanson, Kevin P. Johnson, Rudolf Meier, Christiane Weirauch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Assassin bugs (Reduvioidea) are one of the most diverse (>7,000 spp.) lineages of predatory animals and have evolved an astounding diversity of raptorial leg modifications for handling prey. The evolution of these modifications is not well understood due to the lack of a robust phylogeny, especially at deeper nodes. We here utilize refined data from transcriptomes (370 loci) to stabilize the backbone phylogeny of Reduvioidea, revealing the position of major clades (e.g., the Chagas disease vectors Triatominae). Analyses combining transcriptomic and Sanger-sequencing datasets result in the first well-resolved phylogeny of Reduvioidea. Despite amounts of missing data, the transcriptomic loci resolve deeper nodes while the targeted ribosomal genes anchor taxa at shallower nodes, both with high support. This phylogeny reveals patterns of raptorial leg evolution across major leg types. Hairy attachment structures (fossula spongiosa), present in the ancestor of Reduvioidea, were lost multiple times within the clade. In contrast to prior hypotheses, this loss is not directly correlated with the evolution of alternative raptorial leg types. Our results suggest that prey type, predatory behavior, salivary toxicity, and morphological adaptations pose intricate and interrelated factors influencing the evolution of this diverse group of predators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number22177
JournalScientific reports
StatePublished - Feb 26 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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