Molecular phylogenetics of Aspidiotini armored scale insects (Hemiptera: diaspididae) reveals rampant paraphyly, curious species radiations, and multiple origins of association with Melissotarsus ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).
The armored scale insect tribe Aspidiotini comprises many pest species that are globally invasive and economically damaging. The taxonomy of scale insects is based almost solely upon morphological characters of adult females, and little prior work has been done to test the classification of aspidiotines against molecular evidence. To address these concerns, we reconstruct a molecular phylogeny for aspidiotine armored scales that expands greatly upon taxonomic and character representations from previous studies. Our dataset includes 127 species (356 terminal taxa) and four gene regions: 28S, EF-1α, COI-COII, and CAD. Nearly 50% of the species treated are identified as pests and several more may represent emerging pests. Phylogenetic data were analyzed in a Bayesian framework using MC3 iterations. The majority of sampled aspidiotine genera are not monophyletic as currently defined. Monophyly constraints for 'worst offenders' were imposed on the phylogeny and stepping-stone MCMC was performed to calculate marginal likelihood scores. Comparisons of marginal likelihoods from runs with constrained vs. informative priors support the interpretation that pest-rich genera are not monophyletic. We use character mapping to illustrate signal and convergence for selected traits that have been used to define or recognize genera and evaluate consistency and retention indices for these traits. The phylogeny illustrates a pervasive pattern in which extremely polyphagous pests - typically having large populations and wide geographical distributions - are frequently intertwined with range-limited specialists on the phylogeny. Finally, the phylogeny recovers three origins of ant association among the Aspidiotini. The history of ant/diaspidid symbioses involves periods of sustained partner fidelity, spanning multiple speciation events, which have been punctuated by opportunistic switches to novel partners.