Jeyaraney Kathirithamby

University Research Lecturer

Fellow, St Hugh’s College


Research Interests

Strepsiptera are bizarre parasites that display unique adaptations in response to long and diverse coevolution with their hosts and parasitize 7 orders and 34 families of Insecta. The sexes exhibit extreme sexual dimorphism with free-living males and totally endoparasitic females (except in one family). After extensive taxonomic and morphological studies of this unusual entomophagous parasitoid, I am now engaged in using them as model organisms in the study of evolutionary relationships between parasites and their hosts. In collaboration with laboratories and museums throughout the world, we are beginning to understand the complex interactions that characterize this complex host-parasite relationship. The dimorphic hosts parasitized by the family Myrmecolacidae has been of particular interest: the males parasitize ants and the females parasitize orthopterans and mantids. By molecular characterization we have, unequivocally matched female myrmecolacids to their conspecific males. As a part of this study identical males from different sites have been found to be genetically different, suggesting cryptic speciation.

Given that Strepsiptera found over a wide geographical range can be morphologically similar, cryptic species might be wide spread in this group of parasitoids. We are presently studying other families of Strepsiptera to unravel cryptic species, their host associations and sexual selection.

Systematics, sex determination, evolutionary development, biodiversity and immunogenetics, co-phylogenetics and coevolution of host and parasite are recent areas of focus.


Additional Information

Adjunct Associate Professional Scientist, Division of Biodiversity and Ecological Entomology, Illinois Natural History Survey, Illinois, USA

Full publication list






Selected Publications

  • 2015. J. Kathirithamby, M. Hrabar, J. A. Delagdo, F. Collantes, S. Dötteri, D. Windsor & G. Gries.We do not select nor are we choosy: reproductive biology of Strepsiptera (Insecta). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 116: 221-238.

  • 2015. J. Kathirithamby. Strepsiptera.

  • 2014. J. Kathirithamby & M. S. Engel. A revised key to the living and fossil families of Strepsipte with the description of a new family Cretostylopidae.  Journal of the Kansas EntomologicalSociety 87: 385-388.

  • B. Boussau, Z. Walton, J. A. Delgado, F. Collantes, L. Beani, I. J. Stewart, SA. Cameron, J. B. Whitfield, J. S. Johnston, P. W. H. Holland, D. Bachtrog, J. Kathirithamby, J. P. Huelsenbeck. 2014. Strepsiptera, phylogenomics and the long branch attraction problem. PLoS One 9(10): 2/0107709.

  • D. P. McMahon, A. Hayward & J. Kathirithamby. 2011. The first molecular phylogeny of Strepsiptera (Insecta) reveals an early burst of molecular evolution correlated with the transition of endoparasitism. PLoS 6 (6): e21206, 10pp
  • A. Hayward, D. P. McMahon & J. Kathirithamby. 2011. Cryptic diversity and female host specificity in a paraitoid where the sexes utilize hosts from separate orders. (Molecular Ecology in press
  • J. Kathirithamby, A. Hayward, D. P. McMahon, R. S. Ferreira, R. Andreazze, H. T. de Almeida Andrade, & D. Fresneau. 2010. Conspecifics of a heterotrophic heteronomous species of Strepsiptera (Insecta) are matched by molecular characterization. Systematic EntomologySystematic Entomology DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-3113.2009.00507.x
  • J. Kathirithamby. 2009. Host-parasitoid associations in Strepsiptera. Annual Review of Entomology 54: 227- 249.
  • D. P. McMahon, A. Hayward & J. Kathirithamby. 2009. Mitochondrial genome of Mengenilla australiensis (Strepsiptera). BMC Genomics BMC Genomics 10: 603. DOI.10.1186/1471-2164-10-603.
  • J. Kathirithamby & J. S. Johnston. 2004. The discovery after 94 years of the elusive female of a myrmecolacid (Strepsiptera), and the cryptic species of Caenocholax fenyesi Pierce sensu lato.Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B (Suppl. 3) 271 (1): S5-S8.
    • D. F. Erezimaz, A. Hayward, Yan Huang, J.Paps, S. Acs, J. A. Delgado, F. Collantes & J. Kathirithamby. 2014. Expression of pupal determination Broad during metamorphic and neotenic development of the strepsipteran Xenos vesparum Ross. PLoS 9(4) e936148pp. 
  • J. Kathirithamby, L. D. Ross & S. J. Johnston. Masquerading as self ? Endoparasitic Strepsiptera enclose themselves in host-derived epidermal “bag”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100(13): 7655-7659.