Morphology of male genitalia in lice and their relatives and phylogenetic implications


  • Unpublished for the purposes of zoological nomenclature (Art. 8.2. ICZN)

Kazunori Yoshizawa, Systematic Entomology, Hokkaido University, Sapporo 060-8589, Japan.


Abstract.  Lice (Insecta: Phthiraptera) have long been considered to compose a monophyletic group of insects on the basis of external morphological characteristics. However, a recent phylogenetic analysis of 18S rDNA sequences suggested that ‘Phthiraptera’ have arisen twice within the order Psocoptera (booklice and barklice). The external features of lice are highly specialized to a parasitic lifestyle, and convergence may be frequent for such characters. To provide a further test between traditional and recent molecular-based phylogenetic hypotheses, a phylogenetic analysis of lice and relatives based on morphological characters that are independent from the selective pressures of a parasitic lifestyle is needed. Here, we examined the morphology of the male phallic organ in lice and relatives (‘Psocoptera’: suborders Troctomorpha and Psocomorpha) and detected some novel modifications that were stable within each group and useful for higher level phylogenetic reconstruction. Phylogenetic analysis based on these characters provided a concordant result with the 18S-based phylogeny. In particular, the apomorphic presence of articulations between the basal plate, mesomere and ventral plate (= sclerite on the permanently everted endophallus) is observed consistently throughout the psocid families Pachytroctidae and Liposcelididae and the louse suborder Amblycera, providing support for a clade composed of these three groups, although possible homoplasy was detected in some Ischnocera. This is the first study to provide morphological support for the polyphyly of lice.