Fulgoridae (aka, the lanternflies), and their closest relatives, Dictyopharidae, are two of 20 insect families that are included in the hemipteran superfamily Fulgoroidea (commonly referred to as “planthoppers”). Collectively, planthoppers are a diverse insect group including >9,000 described species, all of which are sap-feeding herbivores. Different researchers have proposed alternative hypotheses regarding how many planthopper families there are and how those families are related. The phylogeny shown here is based on the results of a molecular phylogenetic analysis of Fulgoroidea (using DNA nucleotide sequence data from four genes; Urban & Cryan, 2007). These results support the recognition of at least 19 planthopper families (but note that exemplars of Hypochthonellidae and Gengidae were unavailable for that study). Relationships among some families are depicted here as unresolved because different phylogenetic reconstruction methods produced conflicting results (Urban & Cryan, 2007); we plan to further explore the evolution of the planthopper superfamily in an expanded analysis including more taxa and more data.
These molecular data-based results support the previous hypotheses proposed by Asche (1987; evolutionary relationships based on morphology) and Wilson et al. (1994; host-plant associations): the most ancient planthopper families (Cixiidae and Delphacidae) have ovipositors shaped for piercing and sawing vegetation, and insert eggs into the tissues of monocots or in debris at the base of the host plant. The families of intermediate divergence age (Kinnaridae, Meenoplidae, Derbidae, Achilidae, Achilixiidae, Fulgoridae, and Dictyopharidae) have spade-like ovipositors for burying or covering eggs with soil or wax on monocot or dicot host plants. The most recently diverged families have piercing-excavating ovipositors used to excavate the woody tissue of dicot hosts for egg laying.