Towards a Phylogenetic Approach to the Composition of Species Complexes in the North and Central American Triatoma, Vectors of Chagas Disease
Infection, genetics and evolution: journal of molecular epidemiology and evolutionary genetics in infectious diseases, , , 2014
Abstract: Phylogenetic relationships of insect vectors of parasitic diseases are important for understanding the evolution of epidemiologically relevant traits, and may be useful in vector control. The sub-family Triatominae (Hemiptera:Reduviidae) includes ∼140 extant species arranged in five tribes comprised of 15 genera. The genus Triatoma is the most species-rich and contains important vectors of Trypanosoma cruzi, the causative agent of Chagas disease. Triatoma species were grouped into complexes originally by morphology and more recently with the addition of information from molecular phylogenetics (the four-complex hypothesis); however, without a strict adherence to monophyly. To date, the validity of proposed species complexes has not been tested by statistical tests of topology. The goal of this study was to clarify the systematics of 19 Triatoma species from North and Central America. We inferred their evolutionary relatedness using two independent data sets: the complete nuclear internal transcribed spacer-2 ribosomal DNA (ITS-2 rDNA) and head morphometrics. In addition, we used the Shimodaira–Hasegawa statistical test of topology to assess the fit of the data to a set of competing systematic hypotheses (topologies). An unconstrained topology inferred from the ITS-2 data was compared to topologies constrained based on the four-complex hypothesis or one inferred from our morphometry results. The unconstrained topology represents a statistically significant better fit of the molecular data than either the four-complex or the morphometric topology. We propose an update to the composition of species complexes in the North and Central American Triatoma, based on a phylogeny inferred from ITS-2 as a first step towards updating the phylogeny of the complexes based on monophyly and statistical tests of topologies.
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Bongard's work focuses on understanding the general nature of cognition, regardless of whether it is found in humans, animals or robots. This unique approach focuses on the role that morphology and evolution plays in cognition. Addressing these questions has taken him into the fields of biology, psychology, engineering and computer science.
Danforth is an applied mathematician interested in modeling a variety of physical, biological, and social phenomenon. He has applied principles of chaos theory to improve weather forecasts as a member of the Mathematics and Climate Research Network, and developed a real-time remote sensor of global happiness using messages from Twitter: the Hedonometer. Danforth co-runs the Computational Story Lab with Peter Dodds, and helps run UVM's reading group on complexity.
Laurent studies the interaction of structure and dynamics. His research involves network theory, statistical physics and nonlinear dynamics along with their applications in epidemiology, ecology, biology, and sociology. Recent projects include comparing complex networks of different nature, the coevolution of human behavior and infectious diseases, understanding the role of forest shape in determining stability of tropical forests, as well as the impact of echo chambers in political discussions.
Hines' work broadly focuses on finding ways to make electric energy more reliable, more affordable, with less environmental impact. Particular topics of interest include understanding the mechanisms by which small problems in the power grid become large blackouts, identifying and mitigating the stresses caused by large amounts of electric vehicle charging, and quantifying the impact of high penetrations of wind/solar on electricity systems.
Bagrow's interests include: Complex Networks (community detection, social modeling and human dynamics, statistical phenomena, graph similarity and isomorphism), Statistical Physics (non-equilibrium methods, phase transitions, percolation, interacting particle systems, spin glasses), and Optimization(glassy techniques such as simulated/quantum annealing, (non-gradient) minimization of noisy objective functions).