Orthoptera Systematics

Orthoptera is the most diverse order within Polyneoptera, but the phylogenetic relationships among major lineages within the order are poorly understood and its classification is not stable. In 2008, I received an NSF grant (DEB-0816962, $400,000 + REU supplements) to reconstruct a comprehensive molecular phylogeny of Orthoptera. The project involved numerous field expeditions to secure DNA-grade tissue samples covering the entire diversity within the order as well as the generation of robust molecular character sampling. The grant has since been expired, but over the past five years, this project has produced a number of important papers that have advanced our understanding of the evolutionary history of Orthoptera. The final product of this project was the most comprehensive phylogeny of Orthoptera to date based on complete mitochondrial genomes and four nuclear genes, which is currently in press in Cladistics.

While my work has improved the field of orthopteran systematics, it has also clearly revealed that there are severe taxonomic impediments and critical needs for training new experts especially for Acridomorpha, which is the largest lineage within Orthoptera with more than 9,500 described species, including familiar and economically important grasshoppers and locusts. Within the last 25 years, there has been an alarming rate of decline in taxonomic expertise in this group and currently there are only a handful of experts in the world who can adequately describe and classify grasshoppers. Thus, I feel an urgent sense of mission to advance and revitalize the field of Acridomorpha systematics. I believe that I have already created momentum to do this by training students and continuously seeking additional grants to further this goal. My long-term goal is to continue this mission at Texas A&M so that my “grasshopper lab” can become the world-renowned center for advancing orthopteran systematics.

Representative Papers:

  • Song, H., Amédégnato, C., Cigliano, M.M., Desutter-Grandcolas, L., Heads, S.W., Huang, Y., Otte, D. and Whiting, M.F. 2015. 300 million years of diversification: Elucidating the patterns of orthopteran evolution based on comprehensive taxon and gene sampling. Cladistics 31: 621-651.
  • Woller, D.A., Fontana, P., Mariño-Pérez, R. and Song, H. 2014. Studies in Mexican Grasshoppers: Liladownsia fraile, a new genus and species of Dactylotini (Acrididae: Melanoplinae) and an updated molecular phylogeny of Melanoplinae. Zootaxa 3793 (4): 475–495.
  • Mugleston, J.D., Song, H. and Whiting, M.F. 2013. A century of paraphyly: A molecular phylogeny of katydids (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae) supports multiple origins of leaf-like wings. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 69: 1120-1134.
  • Song, H. 2010. Grasshopper systematics: Past, present and future. Journal of Orthoptera Research 19(1): 57-68.