Phylogeny of the lice (Insecta, Phthiraptera) inferred from small subunit rRNA

Stephen C. Barker, Michael Whiting, Kevin P. Johnson, Anna Murrell

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There has been much argument about the phylogenetic relationships of the four suborders of lice (Insecta: Phthiraptera). Lyal's study of the morphology of lice indicated that chewing/biting lice (Mallophaga) are paraphyletic with respect to sucking lice (Anoplura). To test this hypothesis we inferred the phylogeny of 33 species of lice from small subunit (SSU) rRNA sequences (18S rRNA). Liposcelis sp. from the Liposcelididae (Psocoptera) was used for outgroup reference. Phylogenetic relationships among the four suborders of lice inferred from these sequences were the same as those inferred from morphology. The Amblycera is apparently the sister-group to all other lice whereas the Rhynchophthirina is apparently sister to the Anoplura; these two suborders are sister to the Ischnocera, i.e. (Amblycera (Ischnocera (Anoplura, Rhynchophthirina))). Thus, the Mallophaga (Amblycera, Ischnocera, Rhynchophthirina) is apparently paraphyletic with respect to the Anoplura. Our analyses also provide evidence that: (i) each of the three suborders of lice that are well represented in our study (the Amblycera, Ischnocera, and Anoplura) are monophyletic; (ii) the Boopiidae is monophyletic; (iii) the genera Heterodoxus and Latumcephalum (Boopiidae) are more closely related to one another than either is to the genus Boopia (also Boopiidae); (iv) the Ricinidae and Laemobothridae may be sister-taxa; (v) the Philopteridae may be paraphyletic with respect to the Trichodectidae; (vi) the genera Pediculus and Pthirus are more closely related to each other than either is to the genus Pedicinus; and (vii) in contrast to published data for mitochondrial genes, the rates of nucleotide substitution in the SSU rRNA of lice are not higher than those of other insects, nor do substitution rates in the suborders differ substantially from one another.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)407-414
Number of pages8
JournalZoologica Scripta
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

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