Despite the increasing availability of massive molecular data for phylogenetic inference, understanding the evolution of the phenotype continues to be a key component in systematics. To date, few studies combine detailed morphological character analysis, which often requires time-consuming study, with molecular data for inferring phylogenetic relationships. In this project I aim to conduct extensive scanning electron microscope imaging of external (spinnerets, epiandrous fusules, cuticular surface and male palp morphology) and internal morphological characters (spermathecae, fertilization and copulatory ducts) for the 43 described species of the Neotropical orb-weaving spider genus Wagneriana and nine closely related genera, in order to establish hypothetical morphological transformation series. The morphological dataset will be added to an existing molecular matrix of nine gene fragments in order to infer the phylogenetic placement of Wagneriana within Araneidae and its species-level phylogeny. The feasibility of this project will be guaranteed by the examination of Wagneriana specimens deposited in three of the major arachnological collections around the world, unlimited SEM imaging resources, previously successful cooperation with the foreign institution and the expert collaboration that I will receive. This project will be pioneer in the comprehension of the phylogenetic diversity of a Neotropical spider genus using both morphological and molecular evidence.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: