This study will produce a phylogeny (family tree) of the 38 flea beetle supra-generic groups and 5 galerucine tribes, which will test three proposed hypotheses of relationships, between the flea beetles and the galerucinae using a comprehensive taxon set and an exhaustive character set from adult and larval morphology and 3 gene fragments from the mitochondrial, nuclear and ribosomal genomes. This phylogeny will also be used to test hypotheses of evolution of jumping behavior, evolution of host- plant choice, Biogeography and geologic age of the flea beetles, and evolution of larval leaf feeding which are of general scientific interest.
The flea beetles (Chrysomelidae: Alticinae) together with their sister group, the Galerucinae, are a huge group containing over 12,000 species; they are also extremely damaging to agriculture. The flea beetles are renowned for making "shot holes" in table crops such as potato, broccoli and grapes. The galerucines are infamous for the multi-billion dollar damage to corn and beans. Unfortunately, the taxonomic status of the flea beetles is so confusing that it impedes proper research and pest management. Over 500 described genera of flea beetles are divided into 38 supra-generic tribes, sub-tribes and sections and there is no taxonomic or phylogenetic hypothesis of how these tribes and series are related to one another. This lack of a trust -worthy phylogeny is especially important to pest management, where assumptions about pesticide applications or search for biological control agents are often made based on taxonomic position and where money is often wasted if these assumptions are incorrect.