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Scleropogon duncani (Diptera: Asilidae)
.Scleropogon duncani (Diptera: Asilidae)
(photo by T. Dikow)

Torsten Dikow, Curator of Diptera

  • Phone:   202-633-1005
  • Fax:   202-786-2894
  • E-mail Address:
  • USPS Address:
    Smithsonian Institution
    PO Box 37012, MRC 169
    Washington, DC 20013-7012
  • Public Carrier Address:
    Smithsonian Institution
    National Museum of Natural History
    10th & Constitution NW
    Washington, DC 20560-0169
  • Education:
    M.Sc. Universitaet Rostock, Germany
    PhD Cornell University
Torsten Dikow

Research Interests:

Asiloid Flies research web-site:

As a biologist I am fascinated by the diversity of organisms that live on planet earth. My special interest lies in the most diverse group of animals - the insects. I focus on the Diptera - true flies - and here especially on taxa of "orthorrhaphous" Brachycera: Asilidae ("assassin" or "robber" flies with more than 7,500 described species), Mydidae ("mydas flies", 473 known species), and Apioceridae ("flower-loving flies", 138 known species), which form a monophyletic group within Asiloidea.  

Deciphering the Diversity and Evolutionary History of Asiloidea Flies.

My research interests are to postulate phylogenetic hypotheses by employing morphological characters, targeted molecular loci (PCR-based), 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: 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 (see publications below).

Taxonomy: To date, I have discovered and scientifically described 62 fly species (47 Asilidae, 2 Ephydridae, and 13 Mydidae) including one fossil Asilidae from Dominican Amber and re-described an additional 73 previously known species in my taxonomic revisions. The taxonomic descriptions/re-description, material examined, and other information for the majority of these species is available as open-access on the Encyclopedia of Life – see, for example, the Leptogastrinae Schildia caliginosa described in 2009. More recently described species that were published in the cybertaxonomy journal ZooKeys are available in both Plazi and the EOL – see, for example, the Syllegomydinae Syllegomydas heothinos described in 2010.

Theoretical problems in phylogenetic systematics & species concepts as well as biodiversity research are additional fields of interest to me.

Taxonomy and phylogeny of Apioceridae and Mydidae:
I am currently working on a morphological phylogeny of Apioceridae and Mydidae based on 169 ingroup species (plus 36 outgroup species), which represent about 22% and 24% of the described species diversity of the rare Apioceridae and Mydidae, respectively. I am also gathering molecular data for this project at this stage. Several interesting taxonomic findings will soon be published including 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), and the third species in the enigmatic Australian Mydidae genus Anomalomydas also from the Northern Territory.

Taxonomy and phylogeny of Leptogastrinae robber flies.

I am currently working on the taxonomy and evolutionary relationships of Leptogastrinae robber flies by conducting comprehensive taxonomic revisions and phylogenetic analyses. A novel cybertaxonomic treatment of the fauna of Australasia and Oceania and the genus Euscelidia in the Oriental Region will study the species diversity and endemism of these flies in several biodiversity hotspots sensu Conservation International in South-east Asia, Australia, and the Melanesian, Micronesian, and Polynesian Islands. The phylogenetic hypotheses will be based on both morphological and molecular data, provide predictive classifications, and establish the evolutionary relationships of Leptogastrinae genera. The results will also be used in a test for key innovations that led to the acceleration of diversification rates within Leptogastrinae and the timing and biogeography of the colonization of the Pacific Islands by the two speciose genera Lobus and Mesoleptogaster.

Here are links to web-sites presenting my research:

Asiloid Flies research web-site

Leptogastrinae Scratchpad (information on Asilidae: Leptogastrinae flies)

pdf CV TDikow 2015

Freely available research data:

Research papers by Torsten Dikow google scholar PLAZi
NCBI GenBank zoo bank
Dryad link to slide share web site

ORCID link

link to figshare
Link to ResearchGate   link to Publons

Recent Publications:

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. doi:10.1016/j.rbe.2017.03.002

Dikow, R.B., Frandsen, P.B., Turcatel, M., and Dikow, T. 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. doi: 

Londt, J.G.H. and Dikow, T. 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. doi: 

Pape, T. et al. 2016. Taxonomy: Species can be named from photos. Nature 537(7620): 307–307. doi: 

Dikow, T. and Agosti, D. 2015. Utilizing online resources for taxonomy: a cybercatalog of Afrotropical apiocerid flies (Insecta: Diptera: Apioceridae). Biodiversity Data Journal 3: e5707.

Dikow, T. 2015. Review of Anasillomos Londt, 1983 with the description of a new species (Insecta: Diptera: Asilidae). Biodiversity Data Journal 3: e4652.

Pape, T., Beuk, P., Pont, A., Shatalkin, A., Ozerov, A., Wóznica, A., Merz, B., Bystrowski, C., Raper, C., Bergström, C., Kehlmaier, C., Clements, D., Greathead, D., Kameneva, E., Nartshuk, E., Petersen, F., Weber, G., Bächli, G., Geller-Grimm, F., de Weyer, G.V., Tschorsnig, H.P., de Jong, H., van Zuijlen, J.W., Vanhara, J., Rohácek, J., Ziegler, J., Majer, J., Hurka, K., Holston, K., Rognes, K., Greve-Jensen, L., Munari, L., de Meyer, M., Pollet, M., Speight, M., Ebejer, M., Martinez, M., Carles-Tolrá, M., Földvári, M., Chvála, M., Barták, M., Evenhuis, N., Chandler, P., Cerretti, P., Meier, R., Rozkosny, R., Prescher, S., Gaimari, S., Zatwarnicki, T., Zeegers, T., Dikow, T., Korneyev, V., Richter, V., Michelsen, V., Tanasijtshuk, V., Mathis, W., Hubenov, Z., and de Jong, Y., 2015. Fauna Europaea: Diptera – Brachycera. Biodiversity Data Journal 3: e4187.

Dikow, T. and Grimaldi, D.A. 2014. Robber flies in Cretaceous ambers (Insecta: Diptera: Asilidae). American Museum Novitates 3799: 1–19

Dikow, T. and Leon, S. 2014. Review of the genus Namadytes Hesse, 1969 (Insecta: Diptera: Mydidae: Syllegomydinae). Biodiversity Data Journal 2: e1071.

Smith, V., Georgiev, T., Stoev, P., Biserkov, J., Miller, J.A., Livermore, L., Baker, E., Mietchen, D., Couvreur, T.L.P., Mueller, G., Dikow, T., Helgen, K.M., Frank, J., Agosti, D., Roberts, D., and Penev, L., 2013. Beyond dead trees: integrating the scientific process in the Biodiversity Data Journal. Biodiversity Data Journal 1: e995.

Miller, J.A., Dikow, T., Agosti, D., Sautter, G., Catapano, T., Penev, L., Zhang, Z.-Q., Pentcheff, D., Pyle, R.L., Blum, S.D., Parr, C.S., Freeland, C., Garnett, T., Ford, L.S., Muller, B., Smith, W.L., Strader, G., Georgiev, T., and Bénichou, L. 2012. From taxonomic literature to cybertaxonomic content. BioMedCentral Biology 10(87): 1–5.

Dikow, T. 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. Open-access PDF from African Invertebrtaes.

Dikow, T. 2010. New species and new records of Mydidae from the Afrotropical and Oriental regions (Insecta, Diptera, Asiloidea). ZooKeys 64: 33-75. Open-access PDF from ZooKeys.

Lyons, K.M. and Dikow, T. 2010. Taxonomic revision of Ectyphus Gerstaecker, 1868 and Parectyphus Hesse, 1972 with a key to world Ectyphinae (Insecta: Diptera: Mydidae). ZooKeys 73: 25-59. Open-access PDF from ZooKeys.

Dikow, T. 2010. Order Diptera, family Mydidae. In: Harten, A. van, ed., Arthropod Fauna of the United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi: Dar Al Ummah, pp. 608-615. PDF available upon request.

Dikow, T. and Bayless, K. 2009. Taxonomic revision of the genus Schildia Aldrich, 1923 (Diptera: Asilidae: Leptogastrinae) with the description of new extant and extinct species. Insect Systematics and Evolution 40(3): 253-289. DOI, PDF available upon request.

Dikow, T. 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. Open-access PDF from AMNH.

Dikow, T. 2009. A phylogenetic hypothesis for Asilidae based on a total evidence analysis of morphological and DNA sequence data (Insecta: Diptera: Brachycera: Asiloidea). Organisms, Diversity and Evolution 9(3): 165-188. DOI, PDF available upon request.

Dikow, T., Meier, R., Vaidya, G.G., and Londt, J.G.H. 2009. Biodiversity Research Based on Taxonomic Revisions - A Tale of Unrealized Opportunities. In: Pape, T., Bickel, D.J., and Meier, R., ed., Diptera Diversity: Status, Challenges, and Tools. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, pp. 323--345. PDF available upon request.

for all other published articles: Research papers by Torsten Dikow  


selected recent presentations:

Dikow, T. 2016. Cybertaxonomy in use – or “how you can shape your taxonomic legacy”. Entomological Collections Network meeting, Orlando, FL, USA doi: 

Dikow, T. 2016. Enhancing Diptera systematics: from single researcher to global specimen data network. 25th International Congress of Entomology, Orlando, FL, USA doi: 

Dikow, T. 2016. USNM Diptera Collection. North American Dipterists Society annual meeting, Orlando, FL, USA doi: 

Dikow, T. 2016. My journey from NMNH intern to Research Entomologist – or why research at a natural history museum is amazing. NMNH Town Hall 12 July 2016 doi: 

Dikow, T. Review and phylogenetic placement of Asilidae (Diptera) in Tertiary: Eocene ambers. 62nd Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America, Portland, Oregon, USA, Nov. 2014. link: Figshare.1243382

Dikow, T. Open access, unique identifiers, and cybertaxonomic tools for sharing Diptera research data. 8th International Congress of Dipterology, Potsdam, Germany, Aug. 2014. View on

Dikow, T. Phylogeny of Apioceridae and Mydidae based on morphological characters of imagines. 8th International Congress of Dipterology, Potsdam, Germany, Aug. 2014.
View on

Dikow, T. Effect of taxon sampling in morphological phylogenetic analyses: insights from three fly taxa with different diversification rates. 61st Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America, Austin, Texas, USA, Nov. 2013. View on

Dikow, T. Phylogeny of Apioceridae and Mydidae (Insecta: Diptera) based on morphological characters of adult flies. 31st Willi Hennig Society Meeting, Riverside, California, USA, Jun. 2012. View on here.

Dikow, T. Phylogeny and historical biogeography of Apioceridae and Mydidae inferred from morphological characters of imagines (Diptera: Asiloidea). 59th Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America, Reno, Nevada, USA, Nov. 2011. View on here.

Dikow, T. Molecules and morphology: insights from phylogenetic analyses of insect taxa. 30th Annual Meeting of the Willi Hennig Society, São José do Rio Preto, São Paulo, Brazil, Aug. 2011. View on here.

Dikow, T. Phylogenetic relationships within Mydidae based on morphology of imagines (Diptera: Asiloidea). Phylogeny and taxonomy within the “orthorrhaphous” Brachycera Symposium, 7th International Congress of Dipterology, San José, Costa Rica, Aug. 2010. View on here.

Dikow, T. An overview of Afrotropical Mydidae – the most diverse mydid fauna worldwide. Advances in Afrotropical Dipterology Symposium, 7th International Congress of Dipterology, San José, Costa Rica, Aug. 2010. View on here.

Dikow, T. Phylogeny of Mydidae inferred from morphological characters of imagines (Diptera: Asiloidea). 58th Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America, San Diego, California, USA, Dec. 2010. View on here.

Dikow, T. The Encyclopedia of Life, the Biodiversity Heritage Library, and Systematic Dipterology. 7th International Congress of Dipterology, San José, Costa Rica, Aug. 2010. View on here.

Dikow, T. LifeDesk: Managing and sharing biodiversity research on the web. 29th Willi Hennig Society Meeting, Honolulu, Hawai’i, USA, May 2010. View on here.

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