Ant-luring Feather-legged Bugs: the Holoptilinae

Holoptilinae comprise about 80 species in 15 genera and the current taxonomy and classification are in need of a revision. Holoptilini are specialized on ants and attract their prey with a structure on the abdomen called the trichome (Weirauch and Cassis 2007). The trichome morphology is species specific and shows considerable variation across the group. Ptilocnemus is currently established as a model for studying assassin bug – ant interactions in the Cassis lab at the Australian Museum.

Current classification proposes three tribes, Aradellini and Dasycnemini, which lack a trichome, and Holoptilini, which possess the trichome. A phylogenetic analysis of Holoptilinae will test this classification and shed light on the evolution of morphological ant feeding adaptations, such as the trichome, in this group of insects. Our lab, in collaboration with G. Cassis, is responsible for investigating the comparative morphology of the trichome and revising the taxonomy of the group.

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