My Current Projects

I am currently working on the following projects and topics:
  1. Hydrophilid life in the Gondwana: phylogeny and biogeography of the Rygmodinae
  2. Taxonomy and phylogeny of the Sphaeridiinae
  3. Fossil record of the Hydrophiloidea
  4. Larval morphology of the Hydrophiloidea
  5. Biodiversity of hydrophiloid beetles of selected areas
  6. Taxonomy and phylogeny of basal hydrophiloid families
Click on the project/topic for more information.

Hydrophilid life in the Gondwana: phylogeny and biogeography of the Rygmodinae

The project is focused on the subfamily Rygmodinae, which is the only large strictly Gondwanan group of the Hydrophilidae. They were hypothesized as basal-most terrestrial hydrophilids by Hansen (1991), but actually form a totally separate clade. The project is supported by the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic (GAČR) and solved with cooperation with Rich Leschen (New Zealand Arthropod Collection), Andrew Short (Kansas University), Al Newton (Field Museum of Natural History), Yusuke Minoshima (Kitakyushu Museum) and Nicole Gunter (Australian National Collection).
  • Adult morphology and taxonomy of the Rygmodinae
    (in cooperation with Rich Leschen and Al Newton)
    The taxonomy and adult morphology is studied in detail for all rygmodine Sphaeridiinae genera. Results will be summarized in the Fauna of New Zealand series (for New Zealand taxa) and in a Review of the subfamily Rygmodinae (for taxa from other regions and for details on morphology and phylogeny).
  • Larval associations and morphology studies
    (in cooperation with Yusuke Minoshima)
    Field-collected larval material is available from Australia, New Zealand and Chile, part of it in condition suitable for DNA preservation. In the latter case, we use the DNA markers (mostly CO1) to associate larvae with co-occurring adults. In larvae in which DNA isolation is impossible, we try to associate them by exclusion. In all cases of positive associations, larvae will be described in detail and the larval morphological characters will be coded in the datamatrix.
  • DNA taxonomy of the Gondwanan basal Sphaeridiina
    (in cooperation with Andrew Short and Nicole Gunter)
    We sequence five genes (CO1, CO2, ArgK, 18S, 28S) for nearly all genera and relevant number of species. Parts of these results were already used for the phylogeny reconstruction of all Hydrophilidae, the rest is currently nearly finished and processed for analysis. At the end, molecular data will be combined with morphology for the final total evidence analysis. In some New Zealand taxa, we also tried to obtain some basic data on local phylogeography which will be likely used more in the planned second part of this project..
  • Phylogenetic and biogeographic synthesis
    The data obtained from the above subtopics will be combined in order to recostruct the phylogeny of the group as well as its historical biogeography on the global scale. Fossils will be used for calibrating molecular clock in order to place the phylogenetic information into the temporal frame. We hope that the combination of all data available data will shed light on the reasons and consequences of ancient habitat shifts from aquatic to terrestrial environment of the basal Sphaeridiinae and hence on the origin of the Sphaeridiinae as the whole.

Taxonomy and phylogeny of the Sphaeridiinae

The sphaeridiine tribes Megasternini, Omicrini and Coelostomatini belong to the most interesting group of hydrophilids: they contain a high number of genera, are highly diverse morphologically and moreover the vast majority of their fauna still remains undescribed. Most of them inhabit tropical forest leaf litter, but some are also known from forest canopy, bromeliads, standing and decaying trunks of bamboo and bananas, several genera and species are even associated with ants and termites.
  • Phylogeny of the Sphaeridiinae based on DNA data and morphology:
    (in cooperation with Vít Sýkora )
    Basic data were accumulated already for the phylogenetic analysis of the whole Hydrophilidae (Short and Fikáček 2013). We are now trying to add the data for further taxa and also started the work on the coding of the morphological data. Part of this work (with special focus on basal sphaeridiines) is now solved as a part of the MSc. thesis of my student Vít Sýkora.
  • Taxonomy and biodiversity of the Neotropical fauna:
    (in cooperation with Albert Deler-Hernández, Bruno Clarkson and Fabiano Albertoni)
    I started my studies with Neotropical fauna years ago because a lots of material was available to me from these areas. For this reason, the Neotropical region is my favourite one. In spite of that, I did not have much time for this topic recently, and only resurrected my work on it last year due to the cooperation with Albert Deler-Hernández (Cuba), Bruno Clarkson and Fabiano Albertoni (both Brazil). Except of papers we finished or work on together, I plan to finalize my old manuscripts concerning the updates on Motonerus, continuation of Oosternum revisions.
  • Taxonomy and biodiversity of southern China and SE Asia:
    (in cooperation with Fenglong Jia)
    Suprisingly, the fauna of the Oriental Region which I originally considered as well known due to works by A. Orchymont and F. Hebauer turned to be as unknown as the Neotropical one. My main focus now is the fauna of southern China - I cooperate on the field work and taxonomic studies with Dr. Fenglong Jia (Sun Yatsen University, Guangzhou). Further topics include the termitophilous and myrmecophilous taxa (solved together with Munetoshi Maruyama and his students).

Fossil record of the Hydrophiloidea

Ca. 120 fossils species have been described so far from the Mesozoic and Tertiary localities. Most of them were, however, only unadequately studied so far and badly need modern revision. I have spent the last four years by an extensive study of the hydrophiloid fossils, both described and undescribed, under the support of the grant of the Czech Academy of Sciences. Part of the results have been published already, but other data are still waiting for final evaluation and publication. I hope to slowly finish the work on these data within a year or so.
  • Mesozoic Hydrophiloidea:
    (in cooperation with Alexander Prokin, Evgeniy Yan, Yanli Yue and Bo Wang)
    The Mesozoic is the period of the probable origin and diversification of the Hydrophiloidea, hence the study of the Mesozoic fossils is crucial for understanding the evolution of the family as well as for dating the evolutionary events. I am especially working on the well-preserved material from Russian, Mongolian and Chinese deposits (in cooperation with Alexander Prokin, the people from the Paleontological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Paleoentomology lab of the Capital Normal University in Beijing).
  • Tertiary Hydrophiloidea:
    (in cooperation with Heiko Schmied and Michael Engel)
    Many fossil taxa have been described by classical authors from Tertiary deposits in Europe and North America. Together with my colleagues I already finished the revision of those from the German localities of Rott and Öhningen, of some fossils from Aix-en-Provence in France, and I went through a rather large amoung of Baltic amber material (most of which were not hydrophilids at the end, however). Still part of the data need to be completed and published, especially those concerning the American Tertiary fossils.

Larval morphology of the Hydrophiloidea

Larvae of the Hydrophiloidea are intensively studies in last years, however the immature stages are still unadequately known and/or described in many species. After some break from larvae, I recently started to cooperate with Yusuke Minoshima (Kitakyushu Museum, Japan) on the studies of the larval Rygmodinae. Plus I am also continually accumulating other larval material and describing some of the most interesting ones (e.g., Yateberosus is done, Lihelophorus and Sphaerocetum are awaiting descriptions). I also started with associations of larvae with adults using DNA data, which is a cool source of larval material of many rare taxa!
  • Larvae of the Rygmodinae:
    This is actually a subtopic of my current project on the Gondwanan terrestrial hydrophilids. See above for more details.
  • Morphology of selected hydrophiloid taxa:
    Larval descriptions of some genera for which the material is available are in progress at present or the common projects are under discussion: e.g., larvae of Lachnodacnum (with Bruno Clarkson and Fabiano Albertoni), Yateberosus (with Yusuke Minoshima), Sphaerocetum (with Munetoshi Maruyama) and Lihelophorus (with Robert Angus and Fenglong Jia).

Biodiversity of hydrophilid beetles in selected areas

Biodiversity studies (i.e. so-called inventories) are a important part of my studies. Usually, I am working of the material collected during larger projects, focusing especially on the subfamily Sphaeridiinae.
  • Hydrophilidae of New Zealand:
    This project practically started with my work on the subfamily Rygmodinae, as this is where most of New Zealand hydrophilid belong to. However, after examining the material and collecting in New Zealand myself, I decided to revise even the rest of the fauna, as it also includes interesting endemics as well as undescribed species. The result should be summarized in Fauna of New Zealand Series.
  • Hydrophiloidea of the Caribbean (West Indies):
    In fact not my project originally, as it was started by Albert Deler-Hernández in Cuba few years ago. But once Albert moved to Prague and became my PhD student, I happily accepted the chance to be part of these studies. Even though we started just now, studies on Cuban Berosus and Phaenonotum are already out. We will continue with further taxonomic studies as well as some population genetic ones, both is part of Albert´s PhD project.
  • Hydrophiloidea of Southern China:
    The hydrophiloid fauna of southern China is both extremelly rich and poorly known. Together with Dr. Fenglong Jia from Sun Yatsen University in Guangzhou, we are planning a series of field excursions into selected parts of this reagion. Resulting material will be treated taxonomically and selected hydrophiloid groups will be revised. The first expedition was held in April-May 2011, the second in April 2013. Even though the results are still far from complete, it is clear that it resulted in the finding of many undescribed species.

Taxonomy and phylogeny of the basal hydrophiloid families

I originally considered the basal hydrophiloid families as horrible groups into nobody can really navigate. This is, in my eyes, still valid for the family Hydrochidae which I never touched seriously. However, I was recently pressed to go deep into some problems of the Helophoridae, Spercheidaem Georissidae and Epimetopidae - partly due to my studies on Mesozoic fossils, partly for the inventories on which I cooperated. And I discovered that the basal hydrophiloid groups are horribly interesting and hide many unsolved problems.

  • Phylogeny of the Helophoridae:
    In cooperation with Robert Angus (Natural History Museum, London)
    I examined the recent Helophorus in detail and performed the phylogenetic analysis, including even the fossils (published by Fikáček et al. 2012). The findings were that surprising and caused that bad feeling in Robert´s stomach, that he went to Tibet and together with Fenglong Jia collected the amazing material of the subgenus Lihelophorus, until now known by few specimens only. Their finding are so suprising, that I agreed to join them and continue in the studies of Helophoridae little bit more.
  • Taxonomy of the Georissidae:
    Georissids are extremelly nice and interesting animals whose taxonomy is virtually unknown - new species can be found not very far from Europe and even the European fauna is stil not properly revised. Although I have currently only a very little time for these nice beetles, I consider them as my relax science and like to describe one or two of them time to time. Larger revision is only planned for Australian region at present, even though its progress is also rather slow within last year.

Updated: December 31, 2013