Lice (Insecta: Phthiraptera) have long been considered to compose a monophyletic group of insects on the basis of external morphological characteristics. However, a recent phylogenetic analysis of 18S rDNA sequences suggested that 'Phthiraptera' have arisen twice within the order Psocoptera (booklice and barklice). The external features of lice are highly specialized to a parasitic lifestyle, and convergence may be frequent for such characters. To provide a further test between traditional and recent molecular-based phylogenetic hypotheses, a phylogenetic analysis of lice and relatives based on morphological characters that are independent from the selective pressures of a parasitic lifestyle is needed. Here, we examined the morphology of the male phallic organ in lice and relatives ('Psocoptera': suborders Troctomorpha and Psocomorpha) and detected some novel modifications that were stable within each group and useful for higher level phylogenetic reconstruction. Phylogenetic analysis based on these characters provided a concordant result with the 18S-based phylogeny. In particular, the apomorphic presence of articulations between the basal plate, mesomere and ventral plate (= sclerite on the permanently everted endophallus) is observed consistently throughout the psocid families Pachytroctidae and Liposcelididae and the louse suborder Amblycera, providing support for a clade composed of these three groups, although possible homoplasy was detected in some Ischnocera. This is the first study to provide morphological support for the polyphyly of lice.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Insect Science