Taxonomy, diversity and distribution of the oak gall wasps (Hymenoptera: Cynipidae) in Israel

Gall wasps (Hymenoptera: Cynipidae) are one of the largest and most diverse groups of gall inducing insects. Within this family, the oak gall wasps (in the tribe Cynipini) are by far the most species-rich group. Although cynipids of the northern hemisphere have been studied extensively, Israel's rich cynipd fauna remains virtually unstudied, thus posing both taxonomic and ecological challenges with great potential for the discovery of new species. A study of the oak cynipids of Israel is of particular interest because the five Israeli oak species differ from the European species, exhibiting complex distribution patterns, and knowledge on the cynipid fauna that is associated with them is scarce. The proposed research will be the first thorough systematic treatment of oak cynipids in Israel and will be carried out in collaboration with cynipid specialists from Europe. The aims of the study are to: (1) identify and describe the oak cynipids of Israel and prepare identification keys for the Israeli fauna (2) analyze and characterize habitat preferences, interactions among species and geographical overlapping among the oak gall wasps in Israel (3) reconstruct the phylogeny of the Israeli Cynipini based on morphological and molecular data in order to infer evolutionary trends in this group.