Caddisflies (Insecta: Trichoptera) are a large order of aquatic insects. They are ubiquitous in freshwater ecosystems and found on every continent except Antarctica. They are most closely related to moths and butterflies (Insecta: Lepidoptera). Like their closest relatives, caddisfly larvae have the extraordinary ability to produce and make use of silk. They construct remarkable (and beautiful) tube cases and fixed retreats using their specialized form of silk as an underwater adhesive.
Caddisflies have traditionally been split into three suborders: Anulipalpia (fixed retreat makers), “Spicipalpia” (free-living, tortoise case makers, and purse case makers), and Integripalpia (tube-case makers), but the most recent research places the “Spicipalpia” within the Integripalpia. Despite years of phylogenetic research (Frania and Wiggins, Kjer, Ross, Malm, etc.), the relationships among the suborders and the associated evolutionary transitions between them have remained elusive. I am currently working with Alan and Emily Lemmon at Florida State University using targeted capture techniques and high throughput sequencing to sequence 900 exons for ~250 different caddisfly species. We will use these data to reconstruct the deep splits within Trichoptera and to target the relationships among genera and species within several trichopteran families.