Alina Avanesyan
Among the redwoods -- Muir Woods

Phylogenetic relationships of the Sarcophagidae (Diptera)

I conducted this project in Dr. Ron DeBry’s lab at the beginning of my doctoral program at the University of Cincinnati. Flies of the Sarcophagidae family are known as forensically important insects; that is why studies of their identification and systematic relationships are critically important. The phylogenetic analysis which included mtDNA (COI, COII and ND4) provided good resolution for most nodes. However, the mtDNA gene tree might not be identical to the species tree, so it was necessary to obtain additional data from nuclear genes. Such new data might increase the support for the mtDNA tree or support a different phylogeny. Our results showed that adding nuclear PER gene in most cases maintained or improved support in the Bayesian Inference tree. However, we also find support for some novel relationships.

As a side project, I also worked on host-parasite interaction between sarcophagid flies and grasshoppers. Grasshoppers cause significant damage to crops and rangeland which leads to economic losses in the US and worldwide. Chemical insecticides are traditionally used to prevent grasshoppers’ outbreaks but these chemicals are harmful to the ecosystem and are costly for pest managers. Parasitic flesh flies are one promising approach to biological control of grasshoppers. Fly larvae have a noticeable impact on reproductive physiology and survival of grasshoppers. This topic had potential applications for biological control of grasshoppers. I went on two collection trips to Montana and Iowa and maintained grasshoppers in the lab to observe the presence of parasitoids. However, I did not detect any, which might be explained by a relatively low natural infection rate (<3%). I continued to work with current literature, which contained controversial information about this host-parasite model and I tried to figure out what species of flies can infect what species of grasshoppers based on North-American experimental studies. Conference Presentations

Conference Presentations

  1. Avanesyan A., Stamper T.I. , Timm A., Wong E., Dahlem G.A., and R. DeBry (2010) Phylogenetic relationships of the Sarcophagidae (Diptera), using three mitochondrial loci (COI, COII, and ND4) and one nuclear locus (PER). 58th Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America. San Diego, CA. Poster presentation file_downloadfull text
  2. Avanesyan A., Stamper T.I., and R. DeBry (2010) Infection rate of grasshoppers in Montana, parasitized by Sarcophagidae flies: a host range and parasite species determination. Graduate Poster Forum, University of Cincinnati. Poster presentation file_downloadfull text