Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




James P. Pitts


Spider wasps are solitary parasitoids that use one spider to lay a single egg. Even though their behavior seems homogeneous, the features pertaining to nesting and hunting behavior are diverse for different species. There are approximately 5,000 described species, in 120 genera, but there are probably many undescribed species. The systematics of Pompilidae has been studied in recent years, but only morphological data have been used for this purpose. Because of the morphological homogeneity of spider wasps, molecular data may prove promising for understanding the systematics of the group. Furthermore, dated molecular phylogenies calibrated with fossil data may allow studying the historical biogeography and evolution of the group. I used the nuclear molecular markers elongation factor–1 α F2 copy (EF1), long–wavelength rhodopsin (LWRh), wingless (Wg), RNA polymerase II (Pol2), the D2–D3 regions of the 28S ribosomal RNA (28S), and the mitochondrial Cytochrome C Oxidase I (COI) in a Bayesian and Maximum Likelihood framework, to reconstruct the phylogenies of four main Pompilidae groups: the subfamily Pompilinae, the tribe Aporini, the genus Psorthaspis, and the genus Drepanaporus. I also studied the fossil Pompilidae, and used those results to produce time-calibrated phylogenies of Pompilinae, Aporini, and Psorthaspis. Molecular phylogenetic results support the utility of the use of molecular markers for species delimitation and sex-associations in Pompilidae. In addition, the use of dated phylogenies supports the correlation of host use with diversification rate-shifts, the coevolution of mimicry between pompilids and velvet ants, and various biogeographical hypotheses never tested before for spider wasps.



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