The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program provides students across all engineering, science and technology disciplines with an intensive research experience, allowing them to work closely with graduate students and professors in their respective schools. The SURF 2010 program culminated with a two-day Research Symposium on August 3rd and 4th, where participants presented their summer research work either at technical (oral) sessions or poster sessions. Fifteen students were recognized for their outstanding oral or poster presentations including our own Jiaqi Guo who was recognized for having the best biology poster about “Identification and Phylogenetic Analysis of Indiana Fireflies.” Jiaqi’s mentors for this project were Professors Virginia R. Ferris and Jeffery D. Holland.
Fireflies (family Lampyridae) are known for the light signals they use for species recognition during mating. There are four species from the genus Photuris that are commonly seen in Indiana. They resemble each other very much yet have different patterns of light signals. In order to analyze the phylogeny and evolution of light signals, my research has focused on the molecular analysis of the four species (P. versicolor, P. hebes, P. tremulans and P. lucicresens) and a species from the genus Photinus (Photinus pyralis) for comparison. We sequenced partial nuclear (ribosomal 18S) and mitochondrial (cytochrome C oxidase subunit I, COI) genes to examine the phylogenetic relationships of the five species by applying polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and cloning. We analyzed the sequences with Neighbor Joining and Maximum Parsimony algorythms. The data indicated that the five species have few differences in the highly conserved 18S sequence but more in the COI sequence compared. The COI sequence separated the five species into two genus groups as expected, and showed that the species of the genus Photuris are closely related. The sequences of the COI gene for P. versicolor and P. hebes are not available in GenBank as yet, but our analysis provided sound and reliable evidence for the extistance of the two species.