Wing Discrimination Projects
spinning Drosophila wing

The great insect biologist John Henry Comstock (1895) popularized the use of insect wing venation for classifying and identifying insects.  We intend to develop the use of venation landmarks to discriminate differences between insect sexes, populations and species.   In doing so we hope to extend the use of insect wings in the study of pattern regulation and change during development and evolution.

We accomplish our goals by applying discriminant function analysis and thin plate spline analysis to wing landmarks.  We have established a database of expected wing landmark variability for several species and populations of species: (1) Drosophila species, Drosophila melanogaster wild type and selected mutant populations. (2) gypsy moth, Lymantria dispar, populations. (3) Catocaline moth species. (4) Dragonfly (Odonata) species.

For example we have samples of North American, European and Asian gypsy moth populations. A male Gypsy moth forewing of unknown origin is compared to this database and the wing obtains a discriminant score assessing its likelihood of belonging to one of the three origins we can recognise: North America, Europe or Asia. A higher score for membership in one of the foreign databases marks a wing as being of potential foreign origin.

The above approach uses established statistical concepts on a relatively new type of morphological data, landmark coordinates. While landmark coordinates have become a popular subject in the community of biologists interested in biological shape, our application of this approach is one of the first cases in which it is being used to solve a practical problem, the Asian gypsy moth incursion into North America. We need to explain the general approach starting with its theoretical basis in order to make it acceptable and, moreover, the method of choice in this arena of applied technology. We are using the Drosophila wing project to establish the credibility of our method. We also need to show examples of how this approach successfully discriminates species, sibling species and populations. Our chosen species fit these several needs.

Theory of Landmark Coordinates

What is a landmark?

What is a landmark database?

Examples of Insect Wing Discrimination:

A phenetic tree of gypsy moth populations based on wing shapes.

Are North American gypsy moth populations distinct from European?

Wing landmarks allow establishing subdivisions of the Noctuid underwing moths?

Why do Libellulid dragonfly females have broader wings?

discriminating the sex of Drosophila using wing landmarks!

Try our software.

If you have questions or potential contributions to our Discrimination Projects, you can send an email message or snailmail message to Joe Kunkel, Biology Department, University of Massachusetts, Amherst MA 01003. 
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Page maintained by Joe Kunkel, Copyright(c) 1997. Created: 95/10/28 Updated: 97/10/23