Dr Jeyaraney Kathirithamby

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

Selected Publications


S. L. Chafino, D. I. López- Escardó, G. Benelli, H. Kovac, E. Casacuberta, X. Franch-Marro, J. Kathirithamby and D. Martín (2018), Differential expression of the adult specifier E93 in the strepsipteran Xenos vesparum Rossi suggests a role in female neoteny. Scientific Reports. 8:14176 | DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-32611-y

Erezyilmaz, D. F., Hayward, A., Yan Huang, Paps, J., Acs, Z., Delgado, J. A., Collantes,  F. & Kathirithamby, J. (2014) Expression of the pupal determinant broadduring metamorphic and neotenic development of the strepsipteran Xenos vesparum Rossi. Public Library of Science One 9,e93614, 8pp.

Nakase, Y., Kato, M. & Kathirithamby, J. (2014) Description of a male cephalotheca of Myrmecolax sp. (Strepsiptera: Myrmecolacidae) in a Camponotus sp. (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Thailand. Japanese Journal of Systematic Entomology20,17-20.  

Kathirithamby, J., Perkovsky, E. E., Falin, Z. H. & Engel, M. S. (2016) A putative twisted-wing parasitoid planidium (Strepsiptera: Insecta) in Taimyr Upper Cretaceous amber, Siberia. Cretaceous Research 69: 106-112.   

Wang, B., Kathirithamby, J. & Engel, M. S. (2016) The first twisted-wing parasitoid in Eocene amber from northeastern China (Strepsiptera: Myrmecolacidae). Journal of Natural History 50, 1305-1313.  

A. C. Geffre, R. Liu, F. Manfredini, L, Beani, J. Kathirithamby, C. M. Grozinger, A. L. Toth. (2017) Transcriptomics of an extended phenotype: parasite manipulation of wasp social behaviour shifts expression of caste-related genes. Proceedings of the Royal Society. B. 284 

Antell, G. S. & Kathirithamby, J. (2017)Early Eocene parasitoids from Colorado: the first adult Strepsiptera compression fossils expand the distribution of Myrmecolacidae and age of Caenocholax.Bulletin of the Peabody Museum of Natural History57, 165-174. 

S. B. Pomeroy & J. Kathirithamby. (2018) Maria Sibylla merian Artist, Scientist, Adventurer. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.  

Kathirithamby, J. (2018) Biodiversity of Strepsiptera. In  R.G. Foottit and P.H. Adler (eds). Insect Biodiversity: Science and Society. Volume 2. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, UK.