Who are the Pygmy Borers?

Pygmy Borers, or Cryphalini, are among the most widespread, abundant, and ecologically versatile bark beetles in the world. They can feed on almost any kind of plant matter - trees, seeds, leaf stalks, lianas, or even old books. Some species grow gardens of fungi, others spread lethal pathogens of trees or attack seeds and cause million-dollar losses. Some are monogamous, some are polygamous, some mate only between brothers and sisters, some have very unusual genetic systems. Several species are so invasive that they live on every continent in the world. With so many strange life strategies, they are an excellent model system for answering all kinds of evolutionary questions.

So why aren't all biologist excited about Crypahlini? Because nobody can tell them apart! Despite their importance in nature, Cryphalini have been mostly abandoned by taxonomists. In the words of S. L. Wood, the guru of bark beetle taxonomy: "[The Cryphalini] is the most poorly known tribe in the world and is likely to remain so...". Their classification is pre-phylogenetic, and very few identification resources exist. So the ubiquitous Cryphalini are filling up backlogs of entomology collections, are ignored at quarantine facilities as unidentifiable, and remain universally mysterious.

We want to change it!

In this project, we are

1) revising the generic classification of the tribe Cryphalini

2) testing whether they are really distributed around the whole world, or are just a bunch of cryptic species

3) testing what led to the spectacular diversity of the clade in such a short evolutionary time, specifically if the culprit may have been bacterial reporductive parasites such as Wolbachia,

4) and producing identification resources for researchers, quarantine officers, and beetle fans in general.

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    Hypocryphalus sp.
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