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Hymenoptera is a large order of insects, comprising the sawflies, wasps, bees, and ants. Over 150,000 living species of Hymenoptera have been described, in addition to over 2,000 extinct ones. Our research focuses on uncovering and studying ant, bee and wasp evolution and biodiversity.

The challenge

Species yet to be described

Evolutionary biologists have been investigating the evolution of behavioral, biogeographical, and ecological traits from the advent of modern evolutionary biology. The development of new techniques has facilitated molecular data collection and analysis to produce phylogenetic hypotheses that help elucidate macroevolutionary patterns. Arthopods are the most diverse group of organisms, and many of their evolutionary patterns and processes remain to be understood. For hymenopterans, we have yet to describe thousands of species found in places like Australia, where the fauna has not been well studied or sampled.

Our response

We use morphological and molecular data to classify species

In order to understand Australia’s Hymenoptera biodiversity and evolution, we use morphological and molecular data to discover and delineate species, establish their phylogenetic relationships and study their macroevolutionary patterns. 

Our research projects are a fusion of several components that use hymenopteran phylogenies to: 1) investigate their taxonomy, 2) examine the timing of lineage divergence to infer the processes leading to actual geographic distributions, 3) determine the distribution of ancestral traits to test hypotheses of character evolution, and 4) develop tools for the analysis of phylogenetic data. 

Some of our current projects are:
Phylogenetic relationships of Australian spider wasps: using high throughtput sequencing techniques we aim to place Australian spider wasp genera onto the Pompilidae phylogeny to further our knowledge of their classification and evolution on a world-wide scope.
Historical biogeography of spider wasps: To understand the processes producing their current distribution and classification, we use pompilid phylogenies to estimate divergence times and infer ancestral areas. 
Evolution of Australian velvet ant mimicry: mimicry complexes have often been used as a model to study coevolution of organisms undergoing similar selective pressures. We aim to determine the processes underlying the high phenotypic convergence observed in Mullerian mimicry systems in spider wasps and velvet ants.
More about our research can be found at www.csirohymenopteralab.com
Our digitisation projects are focused on giving the global scientific community access to unique, unrivalled historical, geographic and taxonomic specimen data gathered in the last 100 years.
We are also actively working on a number of projects, these include:
Bees: Major undertaking to overhaul the most important Australian bee collection in the world. Identification, sorting, imaging and databasing these important pollinators. Utilising citizen scienceand  crowd sourcing methods we are able to retrieve information quicker through our volunteer portal, DigiVol where volunteers transcribe the specimens label information.
Pompilidae (spider wasps): Taxonomic curation and reorganisation of the Pompilidae (spider wasps) collection. Imaging and databasing for cataloging this important group.
Mutilidae (velvet ants): A large group of specimens left to sit for over 35+ years is finding its way to scientific discovery by overseas taxonomy experts through this exposing of the collection in current digitisation efforts.
Interested in helping volunteer in getting more of our collections digitised and curated, please contact us here : NRCADigital@csiro.au


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