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Zachary Griebenow


Looking over Nearctic Coleoptera at the Triplehorn Insect Collection

I am a fourth-year PhD student in the Ward laboratory. While the Formicidae are fascinating in many respects, their systematics has always been my area of interest within myrmecology. This is because I have always intuitively subscribed to the idea that the beginning of wisdom (in this case, understanding ants) is calling things by their proper name.


Surface segmentation of an undescribed male leptanilline, produced by Georg Fischer

To that end, I am undertaking a systematic revision of the obscure subfamily Leptanillinae, with phylogeny inferred jointly from male morphology and phylogenomic data. This male-focused approach is unorthodox in systematic myrmecology, but has pragmatic justification in that males of the Leptanillinae are far easier to collect than the exclusively subterranean worker caste.

My examination of male leptanilline morphology particularly emphasizes their genitalia, which display critical phylogenetic signal. In hopes of better understanding the great variety of structural modifications to male leptanilline genitalia, I am collaborating with the Evan Economo laboratory at the Okinawa Institute of Science & Technology in obtaining micro-computed tomography scans of these structures.


An undescribed male morphospecies (Yavnella zhg-bt01), notable for minute size and lack of ocelli

In conjunction with examination of leptanilline males, I have obtained genome-scale data from across this clade using ultra-conserved elements (UCEs), acquired with Michael Branstetter’s et al. hymv2 probe set, and inferred the phylogeny of the Leptanillinae from these data using model-based techniques (ML and Bayesian inference). With male morphology thus contextualized in a phylogenetic framework, I will revise leptanilline taxonomy based primarily upon male morphology.


Curriculum vitae (PDF): Zach Griebenow – academic C.V., November 2020

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