The Jurassic History of Assassin Bugs

A chronogram of the assassin bugs derived from 5 molecular markers. Adapted from Hwang & Weirauch (2012) figure 4.

If you’re into assassin bugs- and really, who isn’t- you should check out this recent paper by Hwang & Weirauch:

The evolution of blood-feeding may thus have occurred once or twice independently among predatory assassin bugs. All prey specialists evolved from generalist ancestors, with multiple evolutionary origins of termite and ant specializations. A bark-associated life style on tree trunks is ancestral for most of the lineages of Higher Reduviidae; living on foliage has evolved at least six times independently. Reduviidae originated in the Middle Jurassic (178 Ma), but significant lineage diversification only began in the Late Cretaceous (97 Ma).

Assassin bugs are fascinating predatory insects found all over the world, and this paper is the first modern effort to synthesize this group’s life history with phylogeny. This sort of big-picture evolutionary research is increasingly common, so if you’re new to biology it’s well worth learning how to interpret studies like these.

Phymata sp. ambush bug (Reduviidae: Phymatinae)

source: Hwang WS, Weirauch C (2012) Evolutionary History of Assassin Bugs (Insecta: Hemiptera: Reduviidae): Insights from Divergence Dating and Ancestral State Reconstruction. PLoS ONE 7(9): e45523. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045523

2 thoughts on “The Jurassic History of Assassin Bugs”

  1. Reduviids are cool and the phymatine forms are especially interesting. So, for example, I would guess that your picture above is of a male. Well, at least it has been shown in Phymata americana that the males are darker than the females. The males tend to guard the females from above, get more insolation, and are able to maintain a higher body temperature; and therefore, guard more females.

    Rather than ramble on, I’ll just give the links to a couple of posts:

    This is a bit spamy (although I’m not selling anything), but these bugs are so cool and they somehow survive up here in Zone 3. Why someone won’t give me a grant to spend my short summers studying them is a mystery to me.

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