Effort clarifies major branch of insect tree of life

Alexey Kozlov, Scientific Computing group (Photo: HITS)

A team of international researchers just published a new study on Hemiptera, using a vast amount molecular data to investigate their evolutionary history of more than 350 million years. An important part of the study was the reconstruction of the phylogenetic trees with a tool developed in the Scientific Computing group at HITS, Heidelberg. The reconstruction was performed on the supercomputer SuperMUC in Garching near Munich.

Hemiptera insects include fierce creatures such as stink bugs, bed bugs, scale insects and aphids.  With a massive number of species, two-thirds of which are still unknown to science, members of this insect group make up one of the twiggiest branches of the tree of life.
A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) collected a vast amount of molecular data on these insects and used the information to help tease out their family relationships and evolutionary history. The findings – and the data, which are now publicly available – will aid future research into some of the most abundant and economically important insects on the planet, the researchers said.

The study was led by Kevin Johnson and Christopher Dietrich from the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), USA. The researchers analyzed nearly 2,400 protein-coding genes, their expression in the form of messenger RNA and the resulting amino-acid sequences. It was a massive effort involving collaborators in China, Germany, Switzerland, Japan and across the United States. Alexey Kozlov (Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies, HITS) contributed the reconstruction of the phylogenetic trees, using the ExaML tool developed in the Scientific Computing group at HITS. The reconstruction was performed on the SuperMUC, a supercomputer at the Leibniz Computing Center in Garching near München.

For the whole story, see the INHS press release

HITS Scientific contact:
Alexey Kozlov

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HITS Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies
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Über das HITS

Das HITS (Heidelberger Institut für Theoretische Studien) wurde 2010 von dem Physiker und SAP-Mitbegründer Klaus Tschira (1940-2015) und der Klaus Tschira Stiftung als privates, gemeinnütziges Forschungsinstitut gegründet. Es betreibt Grundlagenforschung in den Naturwissenschaften, der Mathematik und der Informatik. Zu den Hauptforschungsrichtungen zählen komplexe Simulationen auf verschiedenen Skalen, Datenwissenschaft und -analyse sowie die Entwicklung rechnergestützter Tools für die Forschung. Die Anwendungsfelder reichen von der Molekularbiologie bis zur Astrophysik. Ein wesentliches Merkmal des Instituts ist die Interdisziplinarität, die in zahlreichen gruppen- und disziplinübergreifenden Projekten umgesetzt wird. Die Grundfinanzierung des HITS wird von der Klaus Tschira Stiftung bereitgestellt.

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