Dr. Luciano Palmieri
PhD in Entomology, FFCLRP - University of São Paulo, Brazil, 2017
MSc in Entomology, FFCLRP - University of São Paulo, Brazil, 2012
BSc in Biological Sciences, FFCLRP - University of São Paulo, Brazil, 2007
Co-evolutionary associations between weevils, plants, and bacteria.
My interest in weevils started when I was a graduate research assistant at University of São Paulo, Brazil. I went on several field expeditions to find and collect figs so my colleagues could study the complex mutualistic relationship between figs and fig-wasps. Although I was obviously fascinated by such an extraordinary system, I was even more intrigued by a whole range of other organisms that I found associated with figs. I decided to pursue a Master's degree in Entomology and began to investigate that overlooked fauna.
Among all the insect species associated with figs I discovered, Ceratopus weevils, which caught my attention. They exhibited host specificity with fig trees in an almost 1:1 ratio. Their biology was virtually unknown, and some of the species I found were likely undescribed. My curiosity was triggered! Were there more weevil species associated with fig trees in other regions of the world? Were they as diverse as Ceratopus was in the Neotropical region? What about their phylogenetic relationships and their biogeographic patterns? All those questions drove me to continue researching fig-associated weevils. During my PhD, I visited several entomological collections in different museums across the world to conduct a taxonomic revision of Ceratopus, which resulted in the description of 17 new species (currently under review). I expanded my work to the Afrotropical and Oriental regions and I discovered that the fig-weevils were a group even more diverse than I had anticipated. I recorded several other Curculionini associated with figs, and spent a year at the National Institute for Agricultural Research (former INRA) in France to study the phylogenetics of fig-weevils. The diversity and taxonomy of both Ceratopodini and Curculionini associated with tropical hosts is a subject that I want to keep exploring in the future.
Recently, I started investigating weevil-bacterial endosymbiont association through phylogenomics at the University of Wisconsin. I am particularly interested in the subfamily Dryophthorinae, and began by exploring the co-evolution of Metamasius and their Nardonella endosymbionts. I have assembled the draft genome of M. hemipterus bacterial endosymbiont, and am working on assembling the genome of M. hemipterus. These will be the first steps to understand how this relationship may have influenced some morphological traits of the genus Metamasius, and in the future, to disentangle the parallel evolution of weevils and their endosymbionts.
I am intrigued by the evolutionary processes that create and maintain biodiversity, and I am always excited to study co-evolutionary associations between weevils, plants, and bacteria. Wherever the next opportunity takes me, I am eager to continue studying weevils and contribute to the field in a meaningful way. I am always open to collaborations, and more about my work can be found at https://www.lucianopalmieri.com/.