CCB Seminar: “An overview of the dragonfly and damselfly tree of life” (Jessica Ware, Ph.D., American Museum of Natural History)

Date & Time

Speaker:  Jessica Ware, American Museum of Natural History, Curator of Odonata & non-Holometabolous Minor Orders

Topic: An overview of the dragonfly and damselfly tree of life

Dragonflies and damselflies, representing the insect order Odonata, are among the earliest flying insects with living (extant) representatives. However, unravelling details of their long evolutionary history, such as egg laying (oviposition) strategies, is impeded by unresolved phylogenetic relationships, an issue particularly prevalent in damselfly families and fossil lineages. Here we present the first transcriptome-based and AHE-based phylogenetic reconstructions of Odonata representing nearly all of the order’s families (except Austropetaliidae and Neopetaliidae). All damselfly families and most dragonfly families are recovered as monophyletic groups. Our Molecular clock estimates suggest that crown-Zygoptera (damselflies) and -Anisoptera (dragonflies) both arose during the late Triassic. 

Jessica Ware is an entomologist and associate curator in invertebrate zoology at the American Museum of Natural History, where she is also an assistant professor at the Richard Gilder Graduate School. She is the president of the Worldwide Dragonfly Association and vice president of the Entomological Society of America.

Ware researches how insects adapt physically and behaviorally with respect to their reproductive, social and flight habits. Her lab studies dragonflies, damselflies, termites, cockroaches and mantises.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in zoology at the University of British Columbia and her Ph.D. at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. Ware was a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the AMNH and an associate professor of evolutionary biology at Rutgers University, Newark, where she taught until rejoining AMNH in 2019.

She was awarded a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers by the U.S. government in 2019 for her work on insect evolution.


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