Collaborative Proposal: Phylogeny of the Bat Flies of the World - Insights into Trends in Host Associations and Ectoparasitism
Katharina Dittmar De La Cruz Principal Investigator
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Bat flies constitute a small but diverse group of highly specialized bloodsucking Diptera that are obligate parasites of bats. They deviate dramatically from the general fly body plan, offering unique opportunities for evolutionary studies. Bat fly classification is in a precarious state, never having been tested under stringent phylogenetic hypotheses. This collaborative, interdisciplinary research and training project will assemble molecular and morphological data to answer outstanding questions concerning the evolution of bat flies and their host associations. Morphological and ecological aspects of this system will be investigated to trace the evolution of ectoparasitic adaptation through time and across linages. <br/><br/>This project represents the first comprehensive, phylogenetically-based investigation of bat flies and their relatives, and will improve our understanding of the evolution of parasitism in insects. Results will be disseminated in scientific journals, through a website with digital image galleries and ecological information, through the MorphBank Library, and through GenBank. Data will be incorporated into the NSF FLY Tree of Life initiative. This project also complements and supports the NSF funded bat fly collections at the Field Museum of Natural History. Finally, in collaboration with the Universidad de Puerto Rico, Ponce, a three-module research course called the "REAL EXPERIMENT" will engage students in interdisciplinary scientific research.