Previous: BSc in Zoology, Imperial College London
Hemiptera, the insect order which includes cicadas (Auchenorrhyncha) and stink-bugs (Heteroptera), represent one of the most successful insect radiations, occupying virtually every terrestrial and freshwater habitat. Vibrational and acoustic signaling in Hemiptera has expanded more than any other insect order, used in communication, courtship, defence and prey acquisition. The mechanisms generating these signals include tymbal buckling, abdominal tremulation, percussion and stridulation. Unfortunately, our knowledge on the internal structure of Hemipteran vibrational organs is very poor, making comparative studies difficult. This situation prevents us from establishing key patterns regarding the evolution of vibrational and acoustic signals in this important group of insects.
From a behavioural perspective, Heteropteran vibrational communication converges in many points with that of their sister group, the Auchenorrhyncha. However, the latter are characterized by more specialized vibratory behaviours, while chemical communication is reduced or absent. In contrast, most Heteroptera have greatly expanded their chemical repertoire and rely on multimodal signals to stimulate the receiver by as many communication channels as possible.
Using state-of-the art technology such as synchrotron microtomography, as well as more traditional techniques such as electron miscroscopy and histological methods, I aim to uncover the evolution and morphology of Hemipteran vibrational organs, and determine how the latter interact with cuticular structures to generate vibrations. My results will hopefully contribute to the fields of insect morphology and systematics, as well as provide a morphological framework for biotremological studies on this group of insects.
I am honoured that my DPhil is funded by a scholarship from The Queen’s College and the spin-out company NaturalMotion.
My other scientific interests include taxonomy of Hemiptera and Dictyoptera.