PD Dr. Sven Bradler - Research Group Phasmid Evolution


My research focuses on the study of macroevolutionary patterns of taxononomic diversity, morphological disparity and biogeographic distribution in a phylogenetic framework. I use stick and leaf insects (insect order Phasmatodea) as a model system. Phasmatodeans form a mesodiverse lineage of large terrestrial herbivores with predominantly tropical distribution and few species inhabiting more temperate regions. These insects are usually nocturnal and exhibit extreme forms of masquerade crypsis, imitating various parts of plants such as twigs, bark and live or dead leaves.


Phasmatodeans are also large arthropods whose body size often exceeds that of the largest members of other insect groups. In my studies, I combine morphological and molecular techniques to explore evolutionary processes such as adaptive radiation and community assembly in geographic isolation, repeated evolution of convergent ecotypes and the loss (and regain) of complex character traits. Complementary lines of inquiry include issues related to taxonomy and systematics of stick insects, including extant and extinct forms, and using fossils as calibrations for divergence time analyses (i.e. dating phylogenetic trees).

Please find here a short video presenting our latest research

Selected recent publications:

Bank S, Bradler, S 2022. A second view on the evolution of flight in stick and leaf insects (Phasmatodea). BMC Ecology and Evolution 22: 62.

Bank S, Cumming RT, Li Y, Henze K, Le Tirant S, Bradler S 2021. A tree of leaves: Phylogeny and historical biogeography of the leaf insects (Phasmatodea: Phylliidae). Communications Biology 4: 932.

Bank S, Buckley TR, Büscher TH, Bresseel J, Constant J, De Haan M, Dittmar D, Dräger H, Kahar RS, Kang A, Kneubühler B, Langton-Myers SS, Bradler S 2021. Reconstructing the nonadaptive radiation of an ancient lineage of ground-dwelling stick insects (Phasmatodae: Heteropterygidae). Systematic Entomology 46: 487-507.

Simon S, Letsch H, Bank S, Buckley TR, Donath A, Liu S, Machida R, Meusemann K, Misof B, Podsiadlowski L, Zhou X, Wipfler B, Bradler S 2019. Old World and New World Phasmatodea: Phylogenomics resolve the evolutionary history of stick and leaf insects. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 7: 345.

Glaw F, Hawlitschek O, Dunz A, Goldberg J, Bradler S 2019. When giant stick insects play with colors: Molecular phylogeny of the Achriopterini and description of two new splendid species (Phasmatodea: Achrioptera) from Madagascar. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 7: 105.

Robertson JA, Bradler S, Whiting MF 2018. Evolution of oviposition techniques in stick and leaf insects (Phasmatodea). Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 6: 216.

Bradler S, Buckley TR 2018. Biodiversity of Phasmatodea. In: Insect Biodiversity: Science and Society Vol 2 – eds Foottit RG, Adler PH (John Wiley & Sons): 281–313.

Büscher T, Buckley TR, Grohmann C, Gorb SN, Bradler S 2018. The evolution of tarsal adhesive microstructures in stick and leaf insects (Phasmatodea). Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 6, 69.

Leubner F, Wipfler B, Bradler S 2017. Comparative morphology of the orthopteran thorax with a discussion of phylogenetically relevant characters. Insect Systematics and Diversity 1: 29–47.

Shelomi M, Danchin EGJ, Heckel D, Wipfler B, Bradler S, Zhou X, Pauchet Y 2016. Horizontal gene transfer of pectinases from bacteria preceded the diversification of stick and leaf insects. Scientific Reports 6: 26388.

Leubner F, Hörnschemeyer T, Bradler S 2016. The thorax of the cave cricket Troglophilus neglectus: anatomical adaptations in an ancient wingless insect lineage (Orthoptera: Rhaphidophoridae). BMC Evolutionary Biology 16: 39.

Bradler S, Cliquennois N, Buckley TR 2015. Single origin of Mascarene stick insects: ancient radiation on sunken islands? BMC Evolutionary Biology 15: 196.

Archibald SB, Bradler S 2015. Stem-group stick insects (Phasmatodea) in the early Eocene at McAbee, British Columbia, Canada, and Republic, Washington, United States of America. The Canadian Entomologist 147: 744-753.

Goldberg J, Bresseel J, Constant J, Kneubühler B, Leubner F, Michalik P, Bradler S 2015. Extreme convergence in egg-laying strategy across insect orders. Scientific Reports 5: 7825.

Buckley TR, Myers SS, Bradler S 2014. Revision of the stick insect genus Clitarchus Stål, 1875 (Phasmatodea: Phasmatidae): new synonymies and two new species from northern New Zealand. Zootaxa 3900: 451-482.

Bradler S, Robertson JA, Whiting MF 2014. A molecular phylogeny of Phasmatodea with emphasis on Necrosciinae, the most species-rich subfamily of stick insect. Systematic Entomology 39: 205-222.

Wang M, Béthoux O, Bradler S, Jacques FMB, Cui Y, Ren D 2014. Under cover at pre-angiosperm times: a cloaked phasmatodean insect from the Early Cretaceous Jehol biota. Plos One 9: e91290.

Hörnschemeyer T, Haug JT, Béthoux O, Beutel RG, Charbonnier S, Hegna TA, Koch M. Rust J, Wedmann S, Bradler S, Willmann R 2013. Is Strudiella a Devonian insect? Nature 494: E3-E4.

Friedemann K, Wipfler B, Bradler S, Beutel RG 2012. On the head morphology of Phyllium and the phylogenetic relationships of Phasmatodea (Insecta). Acta Zoologica 93: 184-199.

Bradler S, Buckley TR 2011. Stick insect on unsafe ground: does a fossil from the early Eocene of France really link Mesozoic taxa with the extant crown group of Phasmatodea? Systematic Entomology 36: 218?222.

Buckley TR, Attanayake D, Nylander JAA, Bradler S 2010. The phylogenetic placement and biogeographical origins of the New Zealand stick insects (Phasmatodea). Systematic Entomology 35: 207-225.

Buckley TR, Attanayake D, Bradler S 2009. Extreme convergence in stick insect evolution: phylogenetic placement of the Lord Howe Island tree lobster. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 276: 1055-1062.

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Researcher ID (Web of Science)

Professional distinctions and service to scientific community

Scientific Reports
Subject Editor (Ecology and Evolution)

Zoologischer Anzeiger
Subject Editor (Insects)

Subject Editor (Polyneoptera, Taxonomy, Phylogeny)

DZG (Deutsche Zoologische Gesellschaft)
Section Speaker (Zoological Systematics)