Phylogenetic Insights into the Evolution of Parasitism in Hymenoptera

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The Hymenoptera are one of the four megadiverse orders of insects, with over 100 000 described species and several times this number still waiting to be described. A major part of this diverse group is formed of large lineages of parasitoid wasps. Some of these lineages have in turn given rise to subgroups that have gone on to diversify into other lifestyles, such as gall-forming on, and pollination of, plants, as well as a broad array of food-collecting behaviors associated with social living in colonies. Thus, the Hymenoptera demonstrate the large evolutionary potential of parasitism as a lifestyle, in contrast to early assertions that parasitism tends to lead to evolutionary 'dead ends' driven by overspecialization. Phylogenetic approaches have already led to a number of important insights into the evolution of parasitism in Hymenoptera. A series of examples are discussed in this review, including the origin of parasitism in the order, the development of koinobiosis in some groups, coevolution with symbiotic viruses, and the evolution in some groups away from parasitism and into such habits as gall formation, pollination of figs, nest building and sociality. The potential for comparative analysis of hymenopteran habits is large, but progress is still in its early stages due to the paucity of available well-supported phylogenies, and the still limited accumulation of basic biological data for many taxa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-100
Number of pages32
JournalAdvances in Parasitology
StatePublished - 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology


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