Phylogenomic approaches

Buček A., Šobotník J., He S., Shi M., McMahon D.P., Holmes E.C., Roisin Y., Lo N. & Bourguignon T. 2019: Evolution of termite symbiosis informed by transcriptome-based phylogenies. Current Biology 29: 3728-3734.e4

We used phylogenomic approaches to provide a robust backbone of termite evolution. Our phylogenetic trees show that several taxonomic groups are not monophyletic (Rhinotermitidae, Termitinae, Heterotermes), calling for a nomenclatorial revisions. Our trees also resolve key nodes that suggests a reinterpretation of termite and digestive symbiont evolution. Our results imply that (1) fungiculture is a derived trait, unique to Macrotermitinae, that evolved several million years after the loss of gut protozoa; (2) the construction of combs to externally cultivate nutritional symbionts evolved once in the ancestor of Sphaerotermitinae and Macrotermitinae and was retained since then; and, therefore, (3) gut prokaryotes replaced gut protozoa as the key digestive symbionts in the last common ancestor of Termitidae.

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