The Current Status of Cicada Taxonomy on a Region-by-Region Basis

The New World.

Currently Allen Sanborn (Barry University, Florida) and Maxine Heath (retired) are the only cicada systematists working in North America. They are both part time taxonomists; much of their work focuses/has focused on physiological ecology and biogeography (specifically, summarizing geographic distributions). Neither is training graduate students in cicada taxonomy. Maxine Heath's Master's thesis was a taxonomic treatment of Arizona cicadas of the genus Okanagana (Heath, 1976, unpublished), and her Ph.D. thesis reviewed the taxonomy of North American cicada genera (Heath 1978, unpublished). Allen Sanborn has submitted a North American cicada species catalogue for publication in the spring of 2003. He will also have a checklist of New World species with their country distributions ready in the fall of 2003 or Spring 2004. With Maxine Heath (his former advisor), he is working on keys to the genera and species of North America. With his wife, Polly, he is working on the biogeography/ecology of North American cicada species based on data from museum collections (55 collections have been visited so far, several dozen remain). Since 1980, two new tribes, ten new genera, 48 new species and 10 nom nud have been published. In the New World, the North American cicada fauna is the best known; South American cicadas are very poorly known and there is no taxonomist except Allen Sanborn working on them. We have made contact with several Brazilian ecologists who study cicadas and they emphasized the need for taxonomic work in their country.

South East Asia and the Western Pacific.

The Amsterdam cicada group of Hans Duffels has created a specimen database including all specimens of West Pacific cicadas (New Guinea, Solomons, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa) known to science. They have made maps for all species and Hans is working on a paper in which he tries to recognize biodiversity hotspots and the different distribution patterns in New Guinea and the other islands mentioned. His group is also working on a database for West Indonesia and the southern part of the SE Asian mainland (but the big problem is that many taxonomic groups need revision). Revisions will be ongoing. They have revised several groups in the last two years and every time they revise a group they find, in identified and unidentified museum material, about as many described as new species. Currently they have about 10,000 specimen records for cicadas (many specimens from the same locality, data, collector etc represent one specimen record). They will soon provide a list of the cicadas of the West Pacific, that can accessed through this website. In combination with the lists of New Zealand, Australian and New Caledonian species (published my M. Boulard), this will cover most of the Pacific. The Amsterdam cicada group has published (e.g. Duffels and Turner, 2002, Beuk, 2002) on the phylogeny of the 220 cicada species of two subtribes of the tribe Dundubiini: Dundubiina (occurring the SE Asian mainland and West Indonesia), and Cosmopsaltriina (occurring in the West Pacific) The other major group of West Pacific cicadas is formed by the tribes Chlorocystini and Prasiini. This group of about 150 species has been studied by the cicada group in Amsterdam (e.g. De Boer 1995). De Boer revised the group (about 20 publications), and published papers on its phylogeny and biogeography. Overviews of this cicada work in the West Pacific have been published by De Boer and Duffels (1996, 1997). DuffelsÕ current research seeks to examine the taxonomy and phylogeny of the tribe Ticicenini (153 species from eight genera located in North America, SE Asia, India, Madagascar, and the Western Pacific). The Simon lab is currently looking for a student who could undertake a collaborative project with Duffels on the phylogeny of these cicadas based on morphology and molecules. The ultimate goal of this project would be to understand the biogeographic relationships among Eurasian, SE Asian, West Pacific and Australian tibicenine cicadas and compare this to work by Moulds and Simon (in progress) on the tribe Cicadettini. Masami Hayashi, a Japanese cicada taxonomist/ecologist, would also be involved in the ongoing revisionary work associated with the project. Duffels has recently trained three students, Arnold de Boer, Paul Beuk, and Marieke Schouten. Unfortunately, none have gone on to practice cicada taxonomy.


Europe, North Africa, China, Japan, Korea. Palaearctic cicadas have been studied for over 200 years and are the best-documented cicada fauna. Despite this extensive study, modern systematic methods (molecular and auditory) are discovering many new species. An understanding of the Palaearctic fauna is also critical for an understanding of the current higher classification of cicadas as it was originally based on the Palaearctic fauna. Michel Boulard has been working on the systematics of Palaearctic cicadas since the early 1970s and has published extensively. He has also concentrated on the taxonomy of African cicadas and his recent PhD student, Jerome Sueur studied the evolution of sound production in European Tibicina (the taxonomy of which still needs work). [Sueur will soon be taking up a postdoctoral position studying sound production in mosquitoes.] Boulard has a comprehensive collection of Palaearctic cicadas in addition to collections from Africa, Thailand and South America. Masami Hayashi is an ecologist and authority on the cicadas of Japan and neighboring countries. A large number of European workers study or have studied cicada song production and morphology: M. Gogala (retired from Prirodoslovni muzej Slovenije, Ljubljana), A.V. Popov (Sechenov Institute Evol. Physiology and Biochemistry, St. Petersburg), W. Schedl (retired from Institut Zoologie, Innsbruck), Mike Claridge (retired from University of Wales, Cardiff) and Dr. Matthias Hennig (Berlin, Germany). Jose Quartau (U. Lisboa, Portugal) and his students also have been studying courtship behavior and molecular systematics of Palaearctic cicadas, mostly from the Iberian Peninsula. Matija Gogala, Tomi Trillar and others have worked for the last 15 years on sound production in the cicadas of Eastern Europe and SE Asia. Zhongren Lei (Institute of Plant protection, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing), primarily working in agricultural entomology, in association with other Chinese workers has recently produced a book on the taxonomy of Chinese cicadas. Young June Lee (MS on cicadas of Korea, PhD. on taxonomy of Taiwanese cicadas and molecular systematics of some species of Cicadetta) is working in Korea. Of the above researchers, only Boulard is primarily a taxonomist and he will retire this year. In addition to the Palaearctic, Boulard also studied the cicadas of Madagascar and New Caledonia.

Africa, South of the Sahara.

Martin Villet is a part time cicada taxonomist and coordinator and manager of the "The Insects of Southern Africa" website It contains a checklist of over 150 species of southern African cicadas, along with synonymical and distributional data. The information is drawn from a database containing over 5000 collecting events, and incorporating most major public and private collections of Southern African cicadas. Photographs of specimens are being added, and distribution maps and keys will be added as they become available. Under the initiative of ICIPE, Martin Villet has compiled a checklist of the African cicadas, with synonyms and distribution records, and this will be placed on the WWW in 2003. Martin Villet currently has approximately 50 undescribed SA cicada species in his collection waiting to be described. There are undoubtedly many more species remaining to be found including cryptic species identifiable only by song or DNA. The biodiversity of South Africa and other regions of the world that have been studied by cicada taxonomists is dwarfed by that of Australia. We are currently looking for an MS or PhD student to take on a collaborative project between our group and Villet on the systematics of South African cicadas.

Australia and New Zealand.

Max Moulds has studied Australian cicadas since 1978 and in 1990 published his book "Australian Cicadas," a guide for both amateurs and professionals to the described cicada species. Other Australian cicada workers include Tony Ewart, a retired Geologist with a long interest in the cicadas of Queensland (especially acoustics), and Lindsay Popple who is currently completing an honors thesis at the University of Queensland revising the Pauropsalta annulata group. Australia is the center of diversity of the tribe Cicadettini (the tribe in which most of the Simon lab systematic and evolutionary work has concentrated). Other tribes are also hyperdiverse in Australia. Max Moulds has completed a catalogue of the described Australian cicadas for an ABRS (Australian Biological Resources Study) grant. This catalogue will be available in electronic form only on the ABRS web site: /chcklist.html. It includes things like basic synonymy, location of types, etc. As mentioned above, there are many undescribed species of Australian cicadas some of which are in collections and recognized as members of species complexes. There are currently 224 described species but over 500 are represented in collections. Moulds estimates a total fauna of some 700 species. New Zealand cicadas were studied by Charles Fleming and John Dugdale in the 1960's, 70's and 80's. Although John Dugdale and Charles Fleming made extensive progress in revising New Zealand cicadas (Dugdale 1971, Fleming 1971, 1973, 1984), Fleming's death in the mid 1980's effectively halted this work. After this, Dugdale returned to his primary interest, Lepidoptera and retired in the late 1990's (although he continues as an active Lepidopteran taxonomist and has provided valuable assistance and unpublished information on NZ cicadas).
Funding for this website and research described herein was provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF) grants: NSF DEB 98-07113, 98-12779, 99-82039, 00-89946, 02-17570, 02-17643, 03-22835, 03-22845, 04-22386, 05-29679 (PEET), 06-19012, and 07-20664. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. Additional funding for our research has been supplied by The New Zealand Marsden Foundation, The National Geographic Society, The U.S. Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division, The University of Connecticut Research Foundation, and The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.
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