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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:Purdue University
  • Aaron D Smith
  • (928) 523-8154
Award Date:12/09/2019
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 535,320
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 535,320
  • FY 2018=$535,320
Start Date:10/24/2019
End Date:02/28/2021
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.074
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:ARTS: Uncovering the Desert Darkling Beetles (Tenebrionidae: Pimeliinae): Phylogenomics, phenomics, and biogeography in a megadiverse global radiation
Federal Award ID Number:2009247
DUNS ID:072051394
Parent DUNS ID:072051394
Program Officer:
  • Katharina Dittmar
  • (703) 292-7799

Awardee Location

Street:Young Hall
City:West Lafayette
County:West Lafayette
Awardee Cong. District:04

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Purdue University
Street:155 S Grant St
City:West Lafayette
County:West Lafayette
Cong. District:04

Abstract at Time of Award

Desert darkling beetles (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae: Pimeliinae) are an incredibly diverse (8,000+ described species) but poorly studied group of organisms that are found across the world, particularly in desert environments. Indeed, many species have evolved to survive in some of the driest and hottest places on Earth, and form a key component of desert ecosystems. The subfamily includes well known species such as Namibian fog basking beetles (Onymacris unguicularis, used in biomimicry research) and the North American blue death-feigning beetle (Asbolus verrucosus), along with thousands of poorly known or still undescribed species. This research will describe hundreds of species new to science, explore where these beetles live and how they are related to each other across the planet, and investigate the various adaptations that have allowed these beetles to thrive and diversify across the world's deserts. This project will also train a postdoctoral researcher, two Ph.D. students, and approximately 15 undergraduate students, as well as facilitating collaborations and providing training to a diverse group of scientists from across the globe. Project participants will also be designing and leading hybrid courses between Northern Arizona University and Namibia's renowned Gobabeb Research Center, and working to enhance research collections in all participating institutions. This project will resolve centuries-old issues in our understanding of desert darkling beetles by 1) generating DNA data from recently collected and museum specimens using high-throughput sequencing and target enrichment methods to recover ~631 genetic loci for approximately 500 species across the Pimeliinae. Additionally, approximately 300 larval and adult morphological characters will be scored for each species. Morphological data will be combined with the molecular data to reconstruct the evolutionary history of the subfamily. The resulting phylogeny will inform taxonomic decisions and help place current distributions and life histories within an evolutionary context. 2) Producing an Open Access electronic monograph of the subfamily using the mx/TaxonWorks bioinformatics platform and a matrix-based approach to coding and organizing morphological characters for descriptions, linked to the Coleoptera Anatomy Ontology (ColAO) to provide explicit definitions and images for anatomical terms. The monograph will include the first worldwide key to the Pimeliinae tribes and subtribes, images of specimens and characters, distribution maps, an extensive catalog of darkling beetle names and literature, and matrix-based descriptions. 3) Examining historical biogeography, diversification patterns, and adaptations to xeric conditions across the subfamily using the resulting phylogeny, over 20,000 georeferenced museum and modern specimens, and recently developed analytical tools for biogeographic analyses. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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