Research Entomologist and Curator of Diptera & Aquatic Insects
Deciphering the diversity and evolutionary history of Asiloidea flies.
Phylogenetic relationships of asiloid flies (Apioceridae - apiocerid flies, Asilidae - assassin flies, robber flies, Mydidae - mydas flies) and Diptera in general using morphological and genomic evidence. Revisionary taxonomy applying cybertaxonomic tools for open-access distribution of primary biodiversity data. Application of specimen occurrence data to biodiversity studies.
Asiloid Flies research web-site - asiloidflies.si.edu .
- Research Entomologist for Diptera, National Museum of Natural History 2012 -
- Africa Continent
- Afrotropical Geographic Region
- Australasian Geographic Region
- Namibia Country
- Nearctic Geographic Region
- Neotropical Geographic Region
- Oriental Geographic Region
- South Africa Country
Background And Education
Education And Training
- Ph.D. in Entomology, Cornell University , Department of Entomology, Phylogeny, classification, & biodiversity of robber flies (Diptera: Brachycera: Asiloidea: Asilidae) with special reference to Leptogastrinae 2002 - 2007
- M.S. in Zoology, Universitaet Rostock, Germany , Institut für Biowissenschaften, Revision and phylogenetic analysis of the genus Euscelidia Westwood, 1850 (Diptera: Asilidae) 1996 - 2002
Awards And Honors
- Biodiversity Open Data Ambassador , conferred by Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), 2018
- NMNH Science Achievement Award , 2017
- NMNH Peer Recognition Award, 2017
- John Henry Comstock Award, conferred by Eastern Branch of the Entomological Society of America, 2006
Dr. Torsten Dikow is a research entomologist and curator of flies in the Department of Entomology at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Torsten grew up in northern Germany near the coast. He was always interested in the natural world, and saw many species of insects in the forests around his hometown. In high school, he started to make collections of beetles and other insects. During a course at the University of Rostock, when he was tasked with making a field collection, he encountered some assassin flies and was intrigued. Earning his undergraduate degree in Biology, he was already on the path to study the group of flies--Asilidae--known for their predatory lifestyles.
Torsten first got to know the Smithsonian through a Research Training Program, after which he completed a PhD at Cornell University, then came back to the Museum as a postdoctoral fellow. Today, as a staff scientist, Torsten remains fascinated by the biodiversity and classification of the assassin flies and closely related families. The third largest group of flies, Asilidae has more than 7,500 species, of which Torsten has described 52 new ones, and redescribed many others as he sorts out their classification. Broadly, he works with the collection of true flies - Diptera - at the Museum, including assassin flies and their relatives, to understand fly diversity, biology, distribution, and systematics.
Research And Grants
As a biologist I am fascinated by the diversity of organisms that live on planet earth.
My research revolves around deciphering the diversity and evolutionary history of Diptera. Specifically, I have so far focused on a clade of asiloid flies (Apioceridae - apiocerid flies, Asilidae - assassin flies, and Mydidae - mydas flies) currently known from some 8,100 species that occur world-wide. I strive to combine morphological and molecular data in my phylogenetic analyses and increasingly utilize genomic data. In my taxonomic revisionary and collections-based work, I am developing and employing new cybertaxonomic tools to share data freely to the largest extent and to make my species hypotheses testable by future taxonomists through re-use and re-purposing of data that I generate. I am a firm supporter of open access to science and share my published data, digital illustrations and images, identification keys, and presentations etc. through online data repositories.
I am hosting the asiloidflies.si.edu web-site highlighting my research results and data published.
Deciphering the Diversity and Evolutionary History of Asiloidea Flies
My research interests are to postulate phylogenetic hypotheses by employing morphological characters and newly developed genomic loci from next-generation sequencing methods. I strive to use these hypotheses of evolutionary relationships to test evolutionary scenarios and biogeography and provide a predictive framework to examine the evolution of morphological traits, behavior, or ecology. I furthermore aim to advance the taxonomy by describing new species and reviewing previously described species and share and disseminate data with new, cybertaxonomic tools to make biodiversity data accessible to everyone in an Open Access model.
Phylogeny: Based on my dissertation, I have published two phylogenetic hypotheses of the diverse Asilidae – one based on morphological data of 158 species (plus 17 outgroup species) and another one combining morphological and molecular data for 77 species (plus 11 outgroup species) for which ethanol-preserved specimens were available. More recently, together with co-authors I have published the first Asilidae genome and we combined data from transcriptomes and fossils to propose the first time-calibrated phylogeny of assassin flies.
Taxonomy: To date, I have discovered and scientifically described 70 fly species (53 Asilidae, 2 Ephydridae, and 15 Mydidae) including three fossil Asilidae and re-described an additional 84 previously known species in my taxonomic revisions. I strive to promote taxonomy as a cornerstone of biodiversity science by employing novel cybertaxonomic tools for automating data gathering and machine-readable dissemination. Cybertaxonomic tools enable us to utilize web-based data repositories to store and retrieve information on taxon names, publications, digitized literature, morphological descriptions, molecular sequences, occurrence data, or images. The availability of these kinds of data in an open-access, online framework allows scientists to test and support taxonomic and phylogenetic hypotheses readily as well as link data in support of biodiversity research across taxon boundaries. I utilize both proactive tools to disseminate information of new species as well as retroactive tools based on digitized literature to achieve the widest possible dissemination into structured data repositories and to encourage re-use and re-purposing of the data by future dipterists, biologists, and the public at large.
Field work and growing collections: My field work has taken me around the world and the only place where I haven't looked for flies is Antarctica. The focus of my field work has been in southern Africa (so far in Namibia and South Africa), which has an especially diverse fauna for both Asilidae and Mydidae.
Current projects: I am aiming to address the phylogeny of Orthorrhapha especially Asiloidea and Nemestrinoidea with morphological and molecular data. My goal is to change the landscape of how morphological phylogenetic studies within Diptera are undertaken and I am employing novel techniques to gather morphological evidence. Furthermore, I aim to add high-quality, reference genomes to the research field and use them to develop new loci for phylogenetic analyses. I am continuing my taxonomic revisionary work and have recently been revising several Asilidae genera based on specimens collected during my field work in Namibia and South Africa. Natural history collections—archives of biodiversity—harbor so many already collected specimens of undescribed species and I have discovered several such taxa, e.g., an unusual Mitrodetus (Mydidae) from western Argentina, the first Apioceridae from Argentina, an unusual Australian Mydidae from the center of the continent near Alice Springs (Northern Territory), the third species in the enigmatic Australian Mydidae genus Anomalomydas also from the Northern Territory, two morphologically unusual Mydidae species from Namibia, that I am in the process of working up.
Co-principal Investigator On
- Novel morphological data to decipher the character and life history evolution and diversification of Asiloidea and Nemestrinoidea flies 2017 - 2019
- REVSYS: Phylogeny, revisionary taxonomy & the fossil record of asiloid flies (Diptera: Apioceridae, Asilidae, Mydidae) awarded by Field Museum of Natural History 2009 - 2012
- Kawahara, Akito Y., Storer, Caroline G., Markee, Amanda, Heckenhauer, Jacqueline, Powell, Ashlyn, Plotkin, David, Hotaling, Scott, Cleland, Timothy P., Dikow, Rebecca B., Dikow, Torsten, Kuranishi, Ryoichi B., Messcher, Rebeccah, Pauls, Steffen U., Stewart, Russell J., Tojo, Koji, and Frandsen, Paul B. 2022. "Long-read HiFi sequencing correctly assembles repetitive heavy fibroin silk genes in new moth and caddisfly genomes." Gigabyte, 2022 1–14. https://doi.org/10.46471/gigabyte.64. 2022
- Boschert, Claire and Dikow, Torsten. 2022. "Taxonomic revision of the mydas-fly genera Eremohaplomydas Bequaert, 1959, Haplomydas Bezzi, 1924, and Lachnocorynus Hesse, 1969 (Insecta, Diptera, Mydidae)." African Invertebrates, 63, (1) 19–75. https://doi.org/10.3897/afrinvertebr.63.76309. 2022
- Li, Xuankun, Ellis, Emily, Plotkin, David, Imada, Yume, Yago, Masaya, Heckenhauer, Jacqueline, Cleland, Timothy P., Dikow, Rebecca B., Dikow, Torsten, Storer, Caroline G., Kawahara, Akito Y., and Frandsen, Paul B. 2021. "First annotated genome of a mandibulate moth, Neomicropteryx cornuta , generated using PacBio HiFi sequencing." Genome Biology and Evolution, 13, (10). https://doi.org/10.1093/gbe/evab229. 2021
- Buenaventura, Eliana, Lloyd, Michael W., Perilla Lopez, Juan Manuel, González, Vanessa L., Thomas-Cabianca, Arianna, and Dikow, Torsten. 2020. "Protein-encoding ultraconserved elements provide a new phylogenomic perspective of Oestroidea flies (Diptera: Calyptratae)." Systematic Entomology, https://doi.org/10.1111/syen.12443. 2020
- Londt, Jason G. H. and Dikow, Torsten. 2019. "A review of Southern African Choerades Walker, 1851 with the description of a new species (Diptera, Asilidae, Laphriinae)." African Invertebrates, 60, (1) 31–65. https://doi.org/10.3897/AfrInvertebr.60.30943. 2019
- Greenwalt, Dale, Bickel, Daniel, Kerr, Peter, Curler, Gregory, Brown, Brian, de Jong, Herman, Fitzgerald, Scott, Dikow, Torsten, Tkoč, Michal, Kehlmaier, Christian, and Amorim, Dalton De Souza. 2019. "Diptera of the middle Eocene Kishenehn Formation. I. Documentation of diversity at the family level." Palaeontologia Electronica, 22.2.50. https://doi.org/10.26879/891. 2019
- Vieira, Rodrigo, Camargo, Alexssandro, Pollet, Marc, and Dikow, Torsten. 2019. "Updated checklist of French Guianan Asilidae (Diptera) with a focus on the Mitaraka expedition." Zoosystema, 40 443–464. https://doi.org/10.5252/zoosystema2019v41a23. 2019
- Londt, Jason G. H. and Dikow, Torsten. 2018. "A review of the assassin-fly genus Laphyctis Loew, 1858 with descriptions of two new species (Diptera, Asilidae, Laphriinae)." African Invertebrates, 59, (1) 75–106. https://doi.org/10.3897/AfrInvertebr.59.25022. 2018
- Short, Andrew Edward Z., Dikow, Torsten, and Moreau, Corrie S. 2018. "Entomological Collections in the Age of Big Data." Annual Review of Entomology, 63 513–530. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-ento-031616-035536. 2018
- Shin, Seunggwan, Bayless, Keith M., Winterton, Shaun L., Dikow, Torsten, Lessard, Bryan D., Yeates, David K., Wiegmann, Brian M., and Trautwein, Michelle D. 2018. "Taxon sampling to address an ancient rapid radiation: a supermatrix phylogeny of early brachyceran flies (Diptera): Diptera evolution and supermatrix." Systematic Entomology, 43 277–289. https://doi.org/10.1111/syen.12275. 2018
- Markee, Amanda and Dikow, Torsten. 2018. "Taxonomic revision of the assassin-fly genus Microphontes Londt, 1994 (Insecta, Diptera, Asilidae)." African Invertebrates, 59, (2) 195–237. https://doi.org/10.3897/afrinvertebr.59.30684. 2018
- Londt, Jason G. H. and Dikow, Torsten. 2017. "A revision of the Afrotropical genus Prytanomyia Özdikmen, 2006 (Asilidae, Laphriinae)." African Invertebrates, 58(2) 39–52. https://doi.org/10.3897/AfrInvertebr.58.13294. 2017
- Dikow, Rebecca B., Frandsen, Paul B., Turcatel, Mauren, and Dikow, Torsten. 2017. "Genomic and transcriptomic resources for assassin flies including the complete genome sequence of Proctacanthus coquilletti (Insecta: Diptera: Asilidae) and 16 representative transcriptomes." PeerJ, 5 e2951. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.2951. 2017
- Castillo, Stephanie and Dikow, Torsten. 2017. "Taxonomic revision of Plyomydas Wilcox & Papavero, 1971 with the description of two new species and its transfer to Mydinae (Insecta: Diptera: Mydidae)." Revista Brasileira de Entomologia, 61, (2) 192–202. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rbe.2017.03.002. 2017
- Londt, Jason G. H. and Dikow, Torsten. 2016. "A review of the genus Trichoura Londt, 1994 with the description of a new species from the Northern Cape Province of South Africa and a key to world Willistonininae (Diptera, Asilidae)." African Invertebrates, 57, (2) 119–135. https://doi.org/10.3897/AfrInvertebr.57.10772. 2016
- Pape, Thomas, Beuk, Paul, Pont, Adrian, Shatalkin, Anatole, Ozerov, Andrey, Woznica, Andrzej, Merz, Bernhard, Bystrowski, Cezary, Raper, Chris, Bergström, Christer, Kehlmaier, Christian, Clements, David, Greathead, David, Kameneva, Elena, Nartshuk, Emilia, Petersen, Frederik, Weber, Gisela, Bächli, Gerhard, Geller-Grimm, Fritz, Van de Weyer, Guy, Tschorsnig, Hans-Peter, de Jong, Herman, van Zuijlen, Jan-Willem, Vanhara, Jaromír, Rohácek, Jindrich et al. 2015. "Fauna Europaea: Diptera - Brachycera." Biodiversity Data Journal, 3. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.3.e4187. 2015
- Dikow, Torsten. 2015. "Review of Anasillomos Londt, 1983 with the description of a new species (Insecta: Diptera: Asilidae)." Biodiversity Data Journal, 3. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.3.e4652. 2015
- Dikow, Torsten and Agosti, Donat. 2015. "Utilizing online resources for taxonomy: a cybercatalog of Afrotropical apiocerid flies (Insecta: Diptera: Apioceridae)." Biodiversity Data Journal, 3 e5707. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.3.e5707. 2015
- Dikow, Torsten and Leon, Stephanie. 2014. "Review of the genus Namadytes Hesse, 1969 (Insecta: Diptera: Mydidae: Syllegomydinae)." Biodiversity Data Journal, 2 e1071. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.2.e1071. 2014
- Dikow, Torsten and Grimaldi, David A. 2014. "Robber Flies in Cretaceous Ambers (Insecta: Diptera: Asilidae)." American Museum Novitates, (3799) 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1206/3799.1. 2014
- Smith, Vincent, Georgiev, Teodor, Stoev, Pavel, Biserkov, Jordan, Miller, Jeremy, Livermore, Laurence, Baker, Edward, Mietchen, Daniel, Couvreur, Thomas L. P., Mueller, Gregory, Dikow, Torsten, Helgen, Kristofer M., Frank, Jiri, Agosti, Donat, Roberts, David, and Penev, Lyubomir. 2013. "Beyond dead trees: integrating the scientific process in the Biodiversity Data Journal." Biodiversity Data Journal, 1 e995. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.1.e995. 2013
- Miller, Jeremy, Dikow, Torsten, Agosti, Donat, Sautter, Guido, Catapano, Terry, Penev, Lyubomir, Zhang, Zhi-Qiang, Pentcheff, Dean, Pyle, Richard, Blum, Stan, Parr, Cynthia Sims, Freeland, Chris, Garnett, Tom, Ford, Linda, Muller, Burgert, Smith, Leo, Strader, Ginger, Georgiev, Teodor, and Bénichou, Laurence. 2012. "From taxonomic literature to cybertaxonomic content." BMC Biology, 10 87. https://doi.org/10.1186/1741-7007-10-87. 2012
- Dikow, Torsten. 2012. "Review of Namibimydas Hesse, 1972 and Nothomydas Hesse, 1969 (Diptera : Mydidae: Syllegomydinae: Halterorchini) with the description of new species." African Invertebrates, 53, (1) 79–111. https://doi.org/10.5733/afin.053.0105. 2012
- Dikow, Torsten. 2010. "New species and new records of Mydidae from the Afrotropical and Oriental regions (Insecta, Diptera, Asiloidea)." ZooKeys, (64) 33–75. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.64.464. 2010
- Lyons, Kathleen M. and Dikow, Torsten. 2010. "Taxonomic revision of Ectyphus Gerstaecker, 1868 and Parectyphus Hesse, 1972 with a key to world Ectyphinae (Insecta, Diptera, Mydidae)." ZooKeys, (73) 25–59. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.73.840. 2010
- Dikow, Torsten. 2009. "A phylogenetic hypothesis for Asilidae based on a total evidence analysis of morphological and DNA sequence data (Insecta: Diptera: Brachycera: Asiloidea)." Organisms, Diversity & Evolution, 9, (3) 165–188. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ode.2009.02.004. 2009
- Dikow, Torsten. 2009. "Phylogeny of Asilidae inferred from morphological characters of imagines (Insecta: Diptera: Brachycera: Asiloidea)." Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, (319) 1–175. https://doi.org/10.1206/603.1. 2009
- Dikow, Torsten and Bayless, Keith M. 2009. "Taxonomic revision of the genus Schildia Aldrich, 1923 (Diptera: Asilidae: Leptogastrinae) with the description of new extant and extinct species." Insect Systematics & Evolution, 40, (3) 253–289. https://doi.org/10.1163/187631209X458358. 2009
- Dikow, Torsten. 2007. "Taxonomic revision of the genus Lasiocnemus (Loew, 1851) (Diptera: Asilidae: Leptogastrinae)." African Entomology, 15, (1) 57–74. https://doi.org/10.4001/1021-3589-15.1.57. 2007
- Dikow, Torsten. 2017. "46. Apioceridae (apiocerid flies)." In Manual of Afrotropical Diptera (Vol. 2). Nematocerous Diptera and Lower Brachycera. Kirk-Spriggs, A. H. and Sinclair, B. J., editors. 1057–1061. SANBI, Pretoria: Suricata 5. 2017
- Dikow, Torsten. 2017. "47. Mydidae (mydas flies)." In Manual of Afrotropical Diptera (Vol. 2). Nematocerous Diptera and Lower Brachycera. Kirk-Spriggs, A. H. and Sinclair, B. J., editors. 1063–1095. SANBI, Pretoria: Suricata 5. 2017
- Londt, J. G. H. and Dikow, Torsten. 2017. "48. Asilidae (assassin flies, robber flies)." In Manual of Afrotropical Diptera (Vol. 2). Nematocerous Diptera and Lower Brachycera. Kirk-Spriggs, A. H. and Sinclair, B. J., editors. 1097–1182. SANBI, Pretoria: Suricata 5. 2017
- Dikow, Torsten, Meier, Rudolf, Vaidya, Gaurav G., and Londt, Jason G. H. 2009. "Biodiversity research Based on taxonomic revisions - a tale of Unrealized opportunities." In Diptera diversity : status, challenges and tools. Pape, Thomas, Bickel, Daniel, and Meier, Rudolf, editors. 323–345. Leiden;Boston: Brill. https://doi.org/10.1163/ej.9789004148970.I-459.55. 2009
- Dikow, Torsten. 2008. "Order Diptera , family Mydidae." In Arthropod fauna of the United Arab Emirates. van Harten, Antonius, editor. 608–615. Abu Dhabi: Dar Al Ummah. 2008
- Dikow, Torsten. 2019. [Dataset] Occurrence data of Laphyctis (Diptera: Asiloidea: Asilidae). Distributed by National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution through GBIF. https://doi.org/10.15468/mgzpdj. 2019
- Dikow, Torsten. 2018. [Dataset] Occurrence data of Plyomydas (Diptera: Asiloidea: Mydidae). https://doi.org/10.15468/tiymja. 2018
- Dikow, Torsten. 2018. [Dataset] Occurrence data of Prytanomyia (Diptera: Asiloidea: Asilidae). https://doi.org/10.15468/mgzpdj. 2018
- Dikow, Torsten. 2017. [Dataset] Occurrence data of Prytanomyia (Diptera: Asiloidea: Asilidae). Distributed by GBIF. https://doi.org/10.15468/rufrte. 2017
- Dikow, Torsten. 2015. [Dataset] Occurrence data of Anasillomos (Diptera: Asiloidea: Asilidae). https://doi.org/10.3897/bdj.3.e4652. 2015
- Dikow, Torsten. 2013. [Dataset] Occurrence data of Namadytes (Diptera: Asiloidea: Mydidae). https://doi.org/10.15468/aycaza. 2013
- Dikow, Torsten. 2018. Shaping our taxonomic legacy – tools to accelerate biodiversity [presentation]. Gesellschaft für Biologische Systematik (GfBS), 24 March 2022. Greifswald, Germany: https://doi.org/10.25573/data.c.5907014.
- Dikow, Torsten. 2018. The online Afrotropical Asilidae Portal [presentation]. 9th International Congress of Dipterology, November 2018. Windhoek, Namibia: https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.7403708.
Responsible Collections Areas
- Research Entomologist for Diptera. Responsible for major parts of the Diptera collection such as Tipulomorpha and a few other "Nematocera" family taxa, Orthorrhapha (or Lower Brachycera, except Tabanidae), Phoroidea, Syrphoidea, Carnoidea, Ephydroidea, Sciomyzoidea, and Oestroidea representing 72 family taxa. I am also responsible for aquatic insects such as Odonata, Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera as well as Neuropterida and Mecoptera.
- started the Asiloid Flies (http://nmnh.typepad.com/asiloidflies/) blog to provide interesting news on flies and the USNM Diptera collection to a broader public
- through my personal Twitter account (@TDikow, https://twitter.com/tdikow), I aim to disseminate information on my research (#asiloidflies) and Diptera in general. I live tweet during the Department of Entomology seminars and support our departmental Twitter account (@NMNH_entomology, https://twitter.com/nmnh_entomology) by incorporating the handle in tweets about our Diptera collection (#USNMDiptera)
- Together with NMNH Exhibits team developed and designed a temporary 2-year display featuring information on Asiloidea and Nemestrinoidea flies, their behavior, life history, and diversity
- Together with NMNH Education & Outreach developed a permanent Fly Activity for Q?rius
- NMNH Q?rius Expert-is-In, participated in more than 30 2-hour sessions in talking to the public about asiloid flies and evolutionary biology
- NMNH Q?rius Science-at-the-Edge, presented a talk entitled “Evolution of assassin flies and the discovery of a Cretaceous fossil in Burmese amber” and engaged the public in a discussion about fossils, flies, and evolutionary biology
- NMNH Q?rius ScienceHow – featured scientist on 6 April 2017 “Assassin Flies – Predators of the Insect World” webcast/assassin-flies-predators-of-insect-world (https://qrius.si.edu/explore-science/webcast/assassin-flies-predators-of-insect-world)
- NMNH Q?rius and Education: participated in two Portal to the Public Science Communication workshops
- Participated in NMNH Staff Day by developing and manning a booth on true flies (Diptera) on EC 6th floor, 13 June 2017
- Department of Biological Sciences, The George Washington University Adjunct Professor 2017 -
- KwaZulu-Natal Museum Research Associate 2017 -
- NMNH - Dept. of Entomology Research Entomologist 2012 -
- National Museum of Natural History Academic Department
Department of Entomology
National Museum of Natural History
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Department of Entomology
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