Y. Miles Zhang, PhD

Postdoc, USDA, Systematic Entomology Lab

Email: yuanmeng.zhang AT gmail.com

I am an evolutionary biologist specializing in the diversity and evolution of parasitic wasps. These organisms, though often tiny, contribute an estimated 20% of terrestrial animal species and play diverse and important roles in many ecosystems, including natural control of insect pests. However, the evolutionary forces that have driven the explosive diversification of parasitic wasps remain poorly-understood. My long-term aim is to establish and lead a research group that explores the causation of the enormous abundance and species richness of specialized herbivores and their associated parasitoid communities. Only with such understanding can we predict, for example, the consequences of climate change on the abundance and distribution of these systems and its effect on the ecosystem.


2016 – 2018 Ph.D. Biology, University of Central Florida
2013 – 2015 Ph.D. Entomology University of Manitoba (transferred with advisor)
Advisor: Dr. Barbara Sharanowski
2009 – 2012 M.Sc. Biology, Laurentian University
Advisor: Dr. Joseph Shorthouse
2004 – 2009 B.Sc. Zoology, University of Guelph


2020 - Present ORISE Postdoctoral Research Scholar, USDA SEL
Advisor: Dr. Michael Gates
2018 – 2020 Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Florida
Advisor: Dr. Andrea Lucky
2018 Adjunct Lecturer, University of Central Florida
2016 – 2018 Instructor of Record, University of Central Florida
2014 – 2015 Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of Manitoba
2010 – 2012 Graduate Teaching Assistant, Laurentian University


Hymenoptera Phylogenomics using Ultraconserved Elements (UCEs)

My current postdoc work focuses on using UCEs to generate genomic-level data to reconstruct the phylogeny of Ants, Gall Wasps, and their Parasitoids. Ultraconserved elements have been shown to be very effective at resolving phylogenetic relationships at both deep and shallow evolutionary scale, and can be used on older museum specimens that have degraded DNA. I have also led a review paper on arthropod UCEs phylogenomics, which explains the technique and offers best-practice tips for downstream analyses.

Formicidae: Nylanderia fulva

  1. Zhang, Y.M., Williams, J.L., Lucky, A. (2019) Understanding UCEs: A comprehensive primer on using Ultraconserved Elements for arthropod phylogenomics. Insect Systematics and Diversity, 3: 3. https://doi.org/10.1093/isd/ixz016
  2. Williams, J.L., Zhang, Y.M., Lloyd, M.W., LaPolla, J.S., Schultz, T.R., Lucky, A. (2020) Global domination by crazy ants: Phylogenomics reveals biogeographic history and invasive species relationships in the genus Nylanderia (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Systematic Entomology, 45: 730–744. https://doi.org/10.1111/syen.12423
  3. Zhang, Y.M., Buffington, M.L., Looney, C., László, Z., Shorthouse, J.D., Ide, T., Lucky, A. (2020). UCE data reveal multiple origins of rose gallers in North America: Global phylogeny of Diplolepis Geoffrey (Hymenoptera: Cynipidae). Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution, 153: 106949. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2020.106949

Taxonomy and Systematics of Gall Wasps and Associated Natural Enemies

I am also interested in taxonomy of gall wasp and their associated natural enemies, in particular Eurytomidae. For my masters degree I revised the Canadian species of eurytomids associated with rose gall wasps (Cynipidae: Diplolepis). I used COI to delimit species and provided an updated key along with the description of a new species. I have also used COI and to rebuild the phylogeny of Diplolepis and their inquiline Periclistus, which shows the both genera are in need of revision and gall morphology alone is not enough to identify these species. A few other related collaboration projects I’ve worked on includes the insects associated with the crypt gall wasp Bassettia pallida, including describing the crypt keeper wasp Euderus set. Currently I am revising oak gall wasp Belonocnema, and describing the gall community associated with Smilax in southern Florida.

Cynipidae: Diplolepis polita

  1. Zhang, Y.M., Gates, M.W., Shorthouse, J.D. (2014). Testing species limits of Eurytomidae (Hymenoptera) associated with galls induced by Diplolepis (Hymenoptera: Cynipidae) in Canada using an integrative approach. The Canadian Entomologist, 146: 321–334. https://doi.org/10.4039/tce.2013.70
  2. Egan, S.P., Weinersmith, K.L., Liu, S., Ridenbaugh, R.D., Zhang, Y.M., Forbes, A.A. (2017). Description of a new species of Euderus Haliday from the southeastern United States (Hymenoptera, Chalcidoidea, Eulophidae): the crypt-keeper wasp. ZooKeys, 645: 37–49. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.645.11117 Featured in Science News, National Geographic, Popular Science, Eureka Alert, Daily Mail
  3. Zhang, Y.M., Gates, M.W., Shorthouse, J.D. (2017). Revision of Canadian Eurytomidae (Hymenoptera, Chalcidoidea) associated with galls induced by cynipid wasps of the genus Diplolepis Geoffroy (Hymenoptera, Cynipidae) and description of a new species. Journal of Hymenoptera Research, 61: 1–29. https://doi.org/10.3897/jhr.61.13466
  4. Zhang, Y.M., László, Z., Looney, C., Dénes, A.-L., Hanner, R.H., Shorthouse, J.D. (2019) DNA barcodes reveal inconsistent species boundaries in Diplolepis rose gall wasps and their Periclistus inquilines (Hymenoptera: Cynipidae) based on DNA barcodes. The Canadian Entomologist, 151: 717–727. https://doi.org/10.4039/tce.2019.59
  5. Wienersmith, K.L., Forbes, A.A., Ward, A.K.G., Brandão-Dias, P.F.P., Zhang, Y.M., Egan, S.P. (2020) Invertebrate Community Associated with the Asexual Generation of Bassettia pallida Ashmead (Hymenoptera: Cynipidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 113: 373–388. https://doi.org/10.1093/aesa/saaa009
  6. Gates, M.W., Zhang, Y.M., Buffington, M.L. (2020) The great greenbriers gall mystery resolved? New species of Aprostocetus Westwood (Hymenoptera, Eulophidae) gall inducer and two new parasitoids (Hymenoptera, Eurytomidae) associated with Smilax L. in southern Florida, USA. Journal of Hymenoptera Research, 80: 71-98. https://doi.org/10.3897/jhr.80.59466

Taxonomy, Phylogenetics and Ecological Speciation of Braconid Wasps

The focus of my PhD research was to investigate speciation patterns of euphorine braconid wasps at the genus, species, and population level. Peristenus are parasitoids agricultural pests such as Lygus bugs. I built a multilocus phylogeny of the tribe Euphorini and revised generic concepts (Zhang et al 2018a); revised the North American Peristenus pallipes complex using a combination of molecular, morphometrics, and ecological data; and used ddRADSeq to determine that temporal separation is likely a key driver behind the Lygus-Peristenus system. During this time I also collaborated with others braconid groups.

Braconidae: Peristenus mellipes

  1. Sharanowski, B.J., Zhang,Y.M., Wanigasekara, R.W.M.U.M. (2014). Annotated Checklist of Braconidae (Hymenoptera) in the Canadian Prairies Ecozone. In: Arthropods of Canadian Grasslands. Volume 4: Biodiversity and Systematics, Part 2. Edited by: D. J. Giberson and H. A. Cárcamo. Biological Survey of Canada. Chapter 10, pp 399-425. https://doi.org/10.3752/9780968932179.ch10
  2. Zhang, Y.M., Sharanowski, B.J. (2014). New species of Eudiospilus (Braconidae, Brachistinae) from Madagascar with a review of the genus and key to species. Zootaxa, 3838: 120-126. https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.3838.1.7
  3. Quicke, D.L.J., Shaw, M.R., van Achterberg, C., Bland, K.P., Butcher, B.A., Lyszkowski, R., Zhang, Y.M. (2014). A new Australian genus and six new species of Rogadinae (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), one reared as gregarious endoparasitoid of an unidentified limacodid (Lepidoptera). Zootaxa, 3881: 237–257. https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.3881.3.3
  4. Zhang, Y.M., Ridenbaugh, R.D., Sharanowski, B.J. (2017). Integrative taxonomy improves understanding of native beneficial fauna: Revision of the Nearctic Peristenus pallipes complex (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) and implications for release of exotic biocontrol agents. Systematic Entomology, 42: 596-608. https://doi.org/10.1111/syen.12233 Top 20 Most Downloaded Paper for Systematic Entomology in 2017/2018
  5. Zhang, Y.M., Stigenberg, J., Meyer, J., Sharanowski, B.J. (2018). Multilocus phylogeny of the parasitic wasps in the tribe Euphorini (Braconidae: Euphorinae) with revised generic classifications. PeerJ, 6: e4783. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.4783
  6. Zhang, Y.M., Bass, A.I.H., Fernández, D.C., Sharanowski, B.J. (2018). Habitat or Temporal Isolation: Unravelling herbivore-parasitoid speciation patterns using double digest RADseq. Ecology and Evolution, 8: 9803–9816. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.4457
  7. Stigenberg, J., Zhang, Y.M. (2020). New findings of the subfamily Euphorinae (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) from Papua New Guinea, with descriptions, illustrations, and molecular data. In: Insects of Mount Wilhelm, Papua New Guinea Volume II. Edited by: T. Robillard, F. Legendre, C. Villemant, and M. Leponce. French Museum of Natural History, pp 145–190.

Other Publications

I’ve also dabbled in various topics such as demographic studies of ant biologists, population genomics of invasive ants, and range expansion of rare parasitoid wasps.

  1. Hogan, J.M., Bass, A.I.H., Zhang, Y.M., Sharanowski, B.J. (2019). Integrating multiple sources of biodiversity information suggests range expansion of a rare species of Hymenoptera (Vanhorniidae). Biodiversity Data Journal, 7: e37569. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.7.e37569
  2. Zhang, Y.M., Vitone, T., Storer, C.G., Payton, A.C., Dunn, R.R., Hulcr, J., McDaniel, S.F., Lucky, A. (2019) From pavement to population genomics: characterizing a long-established non-native ant in North America through citizen science and ddRADseq. Frontiers in Ecology & Evolution. 7: 453. https://doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2019.00453
  3. Lucky, A., Atchison, R.A., Ohyama, L., Zhang, Y.M., Williams, J.L., Pinkney, J.L., Clancy, K.L., Nielsen, A.N., Lippi, C.A. (2020). Myrmecology, Gender, and Geography: changing demographics of a research community over thirty years. Myrmecological News, 30: 187-199. https://doi.org/10.25849/myrmecol.news_030:187