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. 2008 Mar;46(3):809-17.
doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2007.11.028. Epub 2007 Dec 7.

Wood-feeding Cockroaches as Models for Termite Evolution (Insecta: Dictyoptera): Cryptocercus vs. Parasphaeria Boleiriana


Wood-feeding Cockroaches as Models for Termite Evolution (Insecta: Dictyoptera): Cryptocercus vs. Parasphaeria Boleiriana

Klaus-Dieter Klass et al. Mol Phylogenet Evol. .


Isoptera are highly specialized cockroaches and are one of the few eusocial insect lineages. Cryptocercus cockroaches have appeared to many as ideal models for inference on the early evolution of termites, due to their possible phylogenetic relationship and several shared key attributes in life history. Recently, Pellens, Grandcolas, and colleagues have proposed the blaberid cockroach Parasphaeria boleiriana to be an alternative model for the early evolution in termites. We compare the usefulness of Cryptocercus and P. boleiriana as models for termite evolution. Cryptocercus and lower Isoptera (1) can both feed on comparatively recalcitrant wood, (2) have an obligate, rich and unique hypermastigid and oxymonadid fauna in the hindgut, (3) transfer these flagellates to the next generation by anal trophallaxis, (4) have social systems that involve long-lasting biparental care, and, finally, (5) are strongly suggested to be sister groups, so that the key attributes (1)-(4) appear to be homologous between the two taxa. On the other hand, P. boleiriana (1) feeds on soft, ephemeral wood sources, (2) shows no trace of the oxymonadid and hypermastigid hindgut fauna unique to Cryptocercus and lower Isoptera, nor does it have any other demonstrated obligate relationship with hindgut flagellates, (3) is likely to lack anal trophallaxis, (4) has only a short period of uniparental brood care, and (5) is phylogenetically remote from the Cryptocercus+Isoptera clade. These facts would argue against any reasonable usage of P. boleiriana as a model for the early evolution of Isoptera or even of the clade Cryptocercus+Isoptera. Cryptocercus thus remains an appropriate model-taxon-by-homology for early termite evolution. As compared to P. boleiriana, some other Blaberidae (such as the Panesthiinae Salganea) appear more useful as model-taxa-by-homoplasy for the early evolution of the Cryptocercus+Isoptera clade, as their brooding behavior is more elaborate than in P. boleiriana.

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