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ioLight Illustrates Scientific Findings of Largest Phylogenetic Study on Phorid Fly

ioLight Illustrates Scientific Findings of Largest Phylogenetic Study on Phorid Fly  content piece image
The ruficornis group displays strongly differentiated intra-allar setae (as marked with arrows). Credit: ioLight
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ioLight appears in its first peer-reviewed scientific paper by Emily Hartop et al., Scuttling towards monophyly: phylogeny of the mega‐diverse genus Megaselia (Diptera: Phoridae).

The inventors of the Magnificent Mobile Microscope collection helped the study’s researchers further scientific understanding of the Megaselia Rondani genus, which belongs to the phorid fly family. Using ioLight’s 1mm pocket microscope, the research team captured 1 micron resolution images of the specimens’ setae to illustrate the morphological differences between three of the groups of Megaselia identified: the spinigera group, the ruficornis group, and the “core” Megaselia (represented by generic type species Megaselia costalis.

Published in September 2020 in Systematic Entomology, a Royal Entomological Society journal, it is the largest study to date of Megaselia relationships based on molecular data from one nuclear and three mitochondrial markers.

Lead analyst, Emily Hartop, is a keen citizen science advocate and regularly travels between Europe, the US and Singapore to engage with collaborators and work on numerous projects. Emily required a portable and compact microscope to support her preliminary phylogenetic analysis of Megaselia and ongoing research. Using ioLight’s microscope, Emily was able to analyse specimens everywhere; from her living room to a laboratory on the other side of the world, capture important morphological features and Z-stack the images to achieve a detailed 3D depiction of the phorid flies (see figure 5).

With nearly 1700 described species and significantly more undiscovered, the Megaselia genus is notoriously challenging to study due to its extreme species diversity, limited knowledge of higher-level relationships and lack of molecular data. The newly-published scientific study provides a framework for future work that Hartop hopes will determine how big the Megaselia genus is, in terms of the number of species, their life history and habitats; the spatial and temporal distributions of the species; and the different evolutionary clades that may be identified in the Megaselia genus.

The study’s primary finding revealed that the majority of the diversity found – 20 of the 22 species groups – was in the “core” of the Megaselia genus, while two groups were outside: ruficornis and spinigera. If future studies indicate the same relationships, including the illustrated setal patterns, the research team believes a definition of Megaselia can be confirmed; resulting in a significant step forward for scientific understanding and categorisation of the genus.

“Democratising science is hugely important. If people around the world are unable to do the same science that we're able to do in countries that are more fortunate, then that is limiting science significantly – ioLight can be a big part of helping to change this,” explains Emily Hartop, Entomologist and Lead Analyst of the scientific study.

“We are delighted that ioLight’s images play an important part in furthering the understanding of such a large and diverse genus as the Megaselia phorid fly. Supporting and helping to enable scientific study has always been our mission and to appear in our first peer-reviewed paper is a wonderful step towards increasing the accessibility of science,” emphasises Andrew Monk, Co-Founder, ioLight.

“I didn’t set out to be the first scientist to publish a peer-reviewed journal article with ioLight’s images, but that’s exciting because it shows that a portable, compact microscope is perfectly capable of creating quality images suitable for publication in respected journals,” shares Emily.