Integrating fossils and recent taxa in the study of rove beetles systematics

With ca. 60,000 recent species, rove beetles (Coleoptera, Staphylinidae) are among the best examples of mega-diverse taxa that always were, and still are, super-challenging for systematic studies. There is a need for biological sciences to comprehend such incredible evolutionary radiation and this stimulates the objective of reconstructing the rove beetle phylogeny (Tree of Life) as a basis for the systematic and evolutionary exploration of this group of organisms. In doing so we particularly focus on the thorough inventory of the fossil record and integration of the neo- and palaeo- morphological as well as genomic characters into a total evidence phylogenetic analysis. 

Also the project explores methods of gaining phylogenetically informative genomic data using Next Generation Sequencing. The expected first result is a robust and stable basal phylogeny of rove beetles associated with the so-called Staphylinine-group of subfamilies. The project is collaborative with 1KITE in Bonn (Germany) and Bioinformatics institute in St. Petersburg,    (Russia). Once a phylogeny is in place, we aim to estimate diversification rate shifts along the selected branches and associate them with the evolutionary driving forces like past climatic changes, major geological events, notable biotic extinctions, or the origin of potential key innovations. The core issue of that meta-analysis is to determine factors that drove rove beetles to become such an exceptionally hyper-diverse group of organisms.  Dagmara Zyla and Janina Kypke are key players in this project.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Outline by Dagmara Żyła
Amblyopinina rove beetles are a signature group in the highly disjunct areas of the Southern Hemisphere, especially in the S-W Pacific. The aim of this project, mainly conducted by Josh Jenkins Shaw, is to perform a generic revision and reconstruct a backbone phylogeny of this speciose lineage based on the DNA-sequences and morphology. Once the main amblyopinine lineages are understood phylogenetically and their taxonomy is clarified, we can use them for rigorous biogeographic studies in this vast region. In particular, timing divergence events within Amblyopinina can tell much about the puzzling historical biogeography of the area. With a closer look at the amblyopinines of some particularly interesting areas like Lord Howe Island, one can explore speciation and extinction patterns relevant for conservation.

Aleocharinae rove beetles of New Zealand: development of the accelerated workflow to study "dark taxa" in poorly known biodiversity hotspots

The main aim of this project led by Igor Orlov is development of an efficient workflow allowing to overcome a hitherto non-passable "taxonomic impediment" that hampers investigation of abundant taxa with multiple undescribed species ("dark taxa") in regions with multiple unknown phylogenetic lineages. The project combines morphospecies, DNA-barcoding, revisionary systematics, elements of genomic and statistical phylogenetic approaches using Aleocharinae of New Zealand as a target. In addition to a generic overview of New Zealand aleocharines, a proposal for a faster way to explore "dark taxa" in biodiversity host spot areas is a desired output.

 The rove beetle tribe Staphylinini stands in the focus of Alexey’s lab research for several years. Recently the backbone phylogeny of the tribe has been resolved as a result of the PhD project of the former lab student Adam Brunke. Mariana Chani-Posse joined the collaborative effort with her extensive expertise in Philonthina, the largest lineage of the tribe. One problem related to a very puzzling presumably extinct species of Philonthina from Lord Howe Island, Cafius gigas, is in the focus of Arn Rytter Jensen's MSc thesis. Currently, Josh Jenkins Shaw is working on the phylogeny and generic revision of Amblyopinina, a subtribe we currently know very little about. Maria Salnitskaja’s project, focused on the north temperate mega-genus Quedius, is also a highly needed contribution to one of the remaining toughest knots in Staphylinini systematics. Phylogenetic boost comes from Dagmara Zyla, together with fossil descriptions and their integration into our datasets. As we always try, we combine various sources of data in the studies of Staphylinini: adult morphology of the recent and fossil taxa, larval morphology, DNA sequences. When properly known, landscape dominating Staphylinini rove beetles provide enormous source of information about past, present and future prospects of various biomes. 

and Population Genetic Study of Beetles (Coleoptera) of the Danish Oceanic Island Læsø

The main goal of this project is exploring the rather unknown world of beetle dispersal. This is not an easy task, as 
minute size of beetles makes it difficult to impossible to track their movements. Instead one can use indirect inference of their dispersal within a simple geographic system. Oceanic islands offer such a system and a great possibility for studying the dispersal capacity and colonization power of organismal species, as they are initially without life. The Danish oceanic island Læsø was chosen as a study area. It is a young 3000 years old island situated between the two mainland regions of Jutland, Denmark and South Sweden. Within this region, the study of beetle dispersal were approached from two different indirect methods, comparative eco-faunistics and population genetics. This study was initiated by Mathias Just Justesen's BSc project and continued in the MSc study by Aslak Kappel Hansen.