1. Biodiversity of South America

Freshwater resources are an integral component of both human and ecosystem health. Surveying the communities of these habitats provide a measure of the health of that system as well providing the raw materials for systematic studies. Surveys in various regions in both the Old and New World tropics show that hydrophilids are routinely 40 to 90% undescribed in these areas. We have described hundreds of species new to science. Our lab has been involved dozens of expeditions in Costa Rica, Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname to survey this incredibly diverse region for aquatic insects. We work with in-country institutions as well as conservation groups (WWF, Conservation International) to maximize the reach and impact of our research. In 2017, we began new survey work in the Brazilian Amazon.

Recent Examples:

  • Short, A.E.Z., M. Garcia, & J.C. Giron* 2017. Revision of the Neotropical water scavenger beetle genus Globulosis García, 2001 (Coleoptera: Hydrophilidae: Acidocerinae). Zootaxa.
  • Short, A.E.Z., S. Salisbury, & T. Isaacs. 2017. Aquatic Beetles of the South Rupununi & Parabara Regions, Guyana. WWF.

2. Beetle Evolution & Diversification

We are particularly interested in constructing holistic phylogenies (integrating morphology, DNA sequence data, and fossils) to examine patterns of evolution in aquatic beetles. We employ Sanger sequencing as well as UCE ( and RADSeq methods depending on the question of interest. We are particularly interested translating our trees into stable classifications and use them to explore a range of questions related to the evolution and impact of habitat transitions, morphological change and "key" innovations, and diversification rate shifts.

Recent Examples:

  • Baca, S.M., E.F.A. Toussaint, K.B. Miller, & A.E.Z. Short. 2017. Molecular phylogeny of the aquatic beetle family Noteridae (Coleoptera: Adephega) with an emphasis on data partitioning strategies. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.
  • Short, A.E.Z., L.J. Joly, M. García, A. Wild, D.D. Bloom, & D.R. Maddison. 2015. Molecular phylogeny of the Hydroscaphidae (Coleoptera: Myxophaga) with description of a remarkable new lineage from the Guiana Shield. Systematic Entomology 40: 214–229.
  • Short, A.E.Z. & M. Fikáček. 2013. Molecular Phylogeny, Evolution, and Classification of the Hydrophilidae (Coleoptera). Systematic Entomology 38: 723–752.

3. Historical Biogeography

Our lab has been increasingly interested in testing apparent biogeographic patterns we have encountered in our beetle groups. Because most subfamily/tribe-level lineages of Hydrophilidae diversified is the Cretaceous (Bloom et al. 2013), the breakup of Gondwana appears to have contributed to how these taxa are presently distributed. We have found lineages, for example, that are congruent with the fragmentation of both East Gondwana (Toussaint, Fikacek & Short 2016) and West Gondwana (Toussaint, Bloom & Short in press). We are also particularly interested in the role of South America as a "museum" and/or "cradle" for water beetle diversity, and the often surprisingly disparate relationships between the Andean and apparently more ancient Guiana and Brazilian Shield faunas of the continent.

Recent Examples:

  • Toussaint, E.F.A., D.D. Bloom, A.E.Z. Short. 2017. Cretaceous West Gondwana vicariance shaped giant water scavenger beetle palaeobiogeography. Journal of Biogeography.
  • Toussaint E.F.A., M. Fikáček, & A.E.Z. Short. 2016. India-Madagascar vicariance explains cascade beetle biogeography. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 118: 982–991.
  • Toussaint, E.F.A., & A.E.Z. Short. 2016. Miocenic Evolution of Brazilian Shield Platynectes Diving Beetles in Amazon Basin Paleodrainage Systems. Annales de la Société Entomologique de France.