Jeya Kathirithamby

Department of Zoology
South Parks Rd

University Research Lecturer & Fellow, St Hugh’s College

Jeya's research interests lie in the study of strepsiptera, parasites that mostly live in other insects, such as bees, wasps, grasshoppers, leafhoppers and planthoppers.

After extensive taxonomic, morphological and molecular studies, Jeya is now using these parasites as model organisms to study the complex  evolutionary relationships between strepsipterans and their hosts.

One aspect of particular relevance to the food system is the observation that infestation of strepsipterans causes changes in the morphology and physiology of the host (stylopization) which causes the host to become infertile. Since some of the hosts of the strepsiptera are pests of crops such as rice, corn, oil palm, araca nuts, coconuts and mangoes, they have the potential to be used as biocontrol agents, deliberately infecting the pests with this parasite in order to protect crops. Such a scheme is already in place in Papua New Guinea where the female strepsipteran Stichotrema dallatorreanum Hofeneder is being used as a biocontrol agent for the long-horned grasshopper that severely defoliates oil palm. With molecular data it has been show that currently recognised morphological species in fact comprises of a set of cryptic species and the phylogenetic structure within these cryptic complexes reflect host associations. Leaf and planthoppers are serious vectors of rice and corn, and it has been shown that the strepsipteran that parasitizes the rice planhopper in Japan comprises of a set of cryptic species.


Recent Relevant Publications: 


J. Kathirithamby, A. Hayward, D. McMahon, R. Andreazze, H. Tadeu de Almeida Andrade, R. S. Ferreira & D.  Fresneau. Conspecifics of a sexually dimorphic, heterotrophic heteronomous species of Strepsiptera (Insecta) are matched by molecular characterization.  Systematic Entomology 35: 234-242. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-3113.2009.00507.x

J. Kathirithamby, J. L. Hatting & D. P. McMahon. First host record and description of female Halictophagus  calcaratus Pasteels (Strepsiptera: Insecta) from South Africa. African Entomology 18(2): 322-327.


A. Hayward, D. P. McMahon & J. Kathirithamby. Cryptic diversity and female host specificity in a parasitoid where the sexes utilize hosts from separate orders. Molecular Ecology 20: 1508-1528. DOI:111/j.1365-294X.2011.05010.x

D. P. McMahon, A. Hayward  & J. Kathirithamby. Strepsiptera. Current Biology. 21: K271-272.

D. P. McMahon, A, Hayward & J. Kathirithamby. The first molecular phylogeny of Strepsiptera (Insecta) reveals an early burst of molecular evolution correlated with the  transition to endoparasitism.  PLoS ONE 6(6): 1-7.

J. Kathirithamby. [Global Strepsiptera database]. In: Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of  Life, 26th October 2011 (Bisby F.A., Roskov Y.R., Orrell T.M., Nicolson D., Paglinawan L.E., Bailly N., Kirk P.M., Bourgoin T., Baillargeon G., Ouvrard D., eds). Digital resource at Species 2000: Reading, UK.


J. Kathirithamby. Strepsiptera, In, Os Insetos do Brasil (in Portugese).

J. Kathirithamby, D. P. McMahon, G. M. Anober-Lantican,, V. Ocompo. An unusual occurrence of multiparasitism by two genera of Strepsiptera (Insecta) in a mango leafhopper Idioscopus clypealis (Lethierry) (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae) in the Philippines. Zootaxa 3268: 16-28.

J. Kathirithamby, G. K. Lechner, D. P. McMahon, A. L. Bryson & J. S. Johnston.  A free ride and lunch: Stylopization in the solitary hunting wasp, Ammophila sp. (Hymenoptera:  Sphecidae) by Paraxenos lugubris Pierce (Strepsiptera). (Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington  in press).

J. Kathirithamby. Strepsiptera, In, The Leafhoppers: Form, Function and Phylogeny. (in press).