Jason Bond, professor of biological sciences and director of the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, received a three-year, $548,000 grant from the National Science Foundation's Division of Environmental Biology for his research proposal titled, "Millipede Systematics: Developing phylogenomic, classification, and taxonomic resources for the future." The grant funding will allow Bond to conduct research on millipedes which are in the arthropod class Diplopoda, comprising some 12,000 described species distributed worldwide in nearly every biome. According to Bond, the group has a deep evolutionary history that includes some of the first terrestrial animals, dating from the mid-Silurian over 400 million years ago. Despite their ecological importance as decomposers in forests, wealth of diversity with an estimated 20,000 to 80,000 species, and prominence as chemical warriors owing to their vast array of defense secretions, the group is woefully understudied. Bond and his team will revise the current ordinal and family-level classification systems using a modern phylogenomic framework based on next-generation sequence data and then employ these data to explore the evolution of chemical defense secretions and their precursors.
The project will enhance accessibility of millipede diversity through the development of a morphological atlas for the group, production of the first illustrated key to millipede families, and publication of the first complete millipede species catalog. The team will also develop a strong collaborative research and training network and partner with collaborators worldwide. During the project, a broad range of individuals will be trained in millipede systematics, morphology and genomics, including high school students and teachers, undergraduate researchers, a postdoctoral trainee, and students participating in organized training workshops that will be held in the Southeastern U.S. and Bangkok, Thailand. For more information on Bond, visit his website.