Biology ETDs

Publication Date



The longhorned wood boring beetles (Insecta: Coleoptera: Cerambycidae) are a diverse and economically important group of insects. With an estimated 4,000 genera and more than 35,000 described species, the Cerambycidae comprise one of the largest beetle families. Cerambycid beetles are found on all continents except Antarctica, from sea level to montane sites as high as 4000 m. Cerambycids are among the most serious wood boring pest species globally, affecting many agricultural crops, ornamental trees, and lumber products, causing millions of dollars in damage each year. Despite their economic importance and biological diversity, relatively little is known of cerambycid beetle ecology, behavior, or phylogenetic relationships. A better understanding of all of these factors would greatly contribute to conservation of endangered species, and in managing invasive species that could become pests in their new countries and habitats. In Chapter 1, I present the phylogenetic relationships among the tribes and genera of longhorned beetle subfamilies Prioninae Latreille and Parandrinae Blanchard (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae) inferred from DNA sequence data. Four genes (12S rRNA, 28S rRNA, cytochrome oxidase I, and histone III) were sequenced for 60 taxa representing the outgroup cerambycoid family Disteniidae Thomson and four cerambycid subfamilies: Cerambycinae Latreille, Lamiinae Latreille, Lepturinae Latreille, and Spondylidinae Audinet-Serville. The monophyly of Prioninae was tested using parsimony and Bayesian analyses. Prioninae (including Parandrinae and the cerambycine genus Plectogaster) was recovered as a monophyletic group in the Bayesian analysis. In the parsimony analysis, Prioninae (including Parandrinae but excluding two prionine genera: Aesa and Sarmydus) was also recovered as a monophyletic group. Both analyses recovered the subfamilies Lamiinae, Lepturinae, and Spondylidinae as monophyletic groups, as well as the Parandrinae + Prioninae clade as sister to Cerambycinae. Relationships among prionine tribes had low support values in both analyses, likely due to missing sequence data for a majority of included taxa, as well as relatively sparse taxonomic coverage (23 of 200 described genera, 11 of 18 tribes included). In Chapter 2, I present the first morphological study and phylogenetic analysis of the tribe Onciderini Thomson (Cerambycidae: Lamiinae). Members of this tribe are commonly referred to as the "twig girdlers" due to the peculiar behavior exhibited by adult females of at least four of 80 described genera. For the morphological study, specimens representing 74 of the 80 described genera of Onciderini were disarticulated and dissected. Twenty-three morphological characters were illustrated and studied, including the head, mandible, ligula, pronotum, prosternum, mesonotum, metendosternite, hind wing, and aedeagus. Seventy-four ingroup taxa and three outgroup taxa were scored for 23 morphological characters. Results of both the cladistic and Bayesian analyses suggest that Onciderini is monophyletic with respect to the outgroup taxa chosen and supported by one unambiguous synapomorphy (pronotum transverse, from 1.2-1.5x as long). Relationships among the 74 species of Onciderini included were poorly resolved and not well supported. Finally, six works published in partial fulfillment of this dissertation are listed as Appendices A-F. Included in these six works are four publications in which a total of 20 new cerambycid taxa are described, 58 new country records are recorded, and identification keys to the species of six genera are presented. The remaining two published works ("Oncid ID: Tool for diagnosing adult twig girdlers," and "Longicorn ID: Tool for diagnosing cerambycoid families, subfamilies, and tribes") are identification tools developed for port identifiers via competitive grant funding from the US Department of Agriculture - Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS). Both tools contain interactive (Lucid) identification keys, extensive photographic galleries, and informational fact sheets to various groups of cerambycid beetles.




phylogeny, taxonomy, morphology

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Biology Department

First Advisor

Miller, Kelly B.

First Committee Member (Chair)

Branham, Marc A.

Second Committee Member

Lowrey, Timothy K.

Third Committee Member

Poe, Steven

Nearns&Miller_2009.pdf (2093 kB)
Appendix A

Nearns&Swift_2011.pdf (2258 kB)
Appendix B

Nearns&Swift_2011 (2).pdf (2258 kB)
Appendix C

Nearns_etal_2012.pdf (1195 kB)
Appendix D

Nearns&Tavakilian_2012a.pdf (2749 kB)
Appendix E

Nearns&Tavakilian_2012b.pdf (6917 kB)
Appendix F