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The evolution of sexual communication in fireflies.
Marc Branham*; JW Wenzel
The Ohio State University, Museum of Biological Diversity, 1315 Kinnear Rd., Columbus, OH 43212-1192, USA *(firstname.lastname@example.org)
Fireflies show a diverse array of sexual signals, including photic signals in conjunction with pheromones, or either photic signals or pheromones alone. We present the first phylogenetic study of the origin of photic signals in these beetles. Morphological characters were studied in 81 species, including 48 fireflies and their near relatives. Our analysis indicates that the origin of bioluminescence in these beetles precedes the evolution of the family Lampyridae, evolving first in larvae of an ancient ancestor and then carrying over into adults in fireflies. Taxa formerly thought to be closely related to fireflies because of their luminous adults are shown to be only distant relatives (e.g. Phengodidae). Pheromonal sexual signal systems compose the basal region of the family and are lost in the clades that employ photic sexual signals. Our phylogeny also hypothesizes multiple origins of flashing behavior in fireflies. This study illustrates the importance of phylogenetic methods for tracing the evolutionary origin, function and maintenance of sexual signal systems in organisms employing bioluminescent or other signal modalities (chemical, acoustic, or non-photic visual signals).
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