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Summary

The genus Uroleucon, and the related genus Macrosiphoniella, represent a large Tertiary radiation of aphids, with a total of about 300 species distributed throughout the world, primarily on host plant species in the family Asteraceae. A molecular phylogenetic study was conducted to identify major clades within Uroleucon and to address the cladistic validity of current subgeneric categories, the evolution of host plant associations, the age of origin, and intercontinental movements in this genus. The seventeen study species included members of the three major subgenera of Uroleucon, species from Europe and North America, one member of Macrosiphoniella, and two outgroups. Data consisted of DNA sequences for three mitochondrial regions and the nuclear gene EF1alpha, for a total of 4287 sites. Nodes supported strongly in both parsimony and maximum likelihood analyses suggest that: (1) Nearctic Uromelan are a monophyletic group branching near the base of the genus and not related to European Uromelan, (2) the New World subgenus Lambersius is possibly monophyletic but is not a tightly related group and is not closely related to other North American species, and (3) Nearctic members of subgenus Uroleucon are a closely related monophyletic group not allied with Nearctic Uromelan or Lambersius. Instead they represent a separate colonization by an Old World ancestor, as they are nested within a strongly supported clade containing European members of both subgenera Uroleucon and Uromelan. Neither of these subgenera is monophyletic. Molecular clock calculations, based on calibrations of mitochondrial divergences from other insects, suggest that Uroleucon + Macrosiphoniella is a relatively recent radiation, probably no more than 5–10 million years old. Although largely confined to Asteraceae, this clade did not radiate in parallel with its host plants. Rather, lateral movement between lineages of Asteraceae must have occurred repeatedly.