Polyneoptera is a name sometimes applied to an assemblage of 11 insect orders comprising the lower neopterous or ‘‘orthopteroid'' insects. These orders include familiar insects such as Orthoptera (grasshoppers), Blattodea (roaches), Isoptera (termites) (Mantodea) praying mantises, Dermaptera (earwigs), Phasmatodea (stick insects), Plecoptera (stoneflies), as well as the more obscure, Embiidina (web-spinners), Zoraptera (angel insects) and Grylloblattodea (ice-crawlers). Many of these insect orders exhibit a high degree of morphological specialization, a condition that has led to multiple phylogenetic hypotheses and little consensus among investigators. We present a phylogenetic analysis of the polyneopteran orders representing a broad range of their phylogenetic diversity and including the recently described Mantophasmatodea. These analyses are based on complete 18S rDNA, 28S rDNA, Histone 3 DNA sequences, and a previously published morphology matrix coded at the ordinal level. Extensive analyses utilizing different alignment methodologies and parameter values across a majority of possible ranges were employed to test for sensitivity of the results to ribosomal alignment and to explore patterns across the theoretical alignment landscape. Multiple methodologies support the paraphyly of Polyneoptera, the monophyly of Dictyoptera, Orthopteroidea (sensu Kukalova-Peck; i.e. Orthoptera + Phasmatodea + Embiidina), and a group composed of Plecoptera + Dermaptera + Zoraptera. Sister taxon relationships between Embiidina+Phasmatodea in a group called ‘‘Eukinolabia'', and Dermaptera+Zoraptera (‘‘Haplocercata'') are also supported by multiple analyses. This analysis also supports a sister taxon relationship between the newly described Mantophasmatodea, which are endemic to arid portions of southern Africa, and Grylloblattodea, a small order of cryophilic insects confined to the north-western Americas and north-eastern Asia, in a group termed ‘‘Xenonomia''. This placement, coupled with the morphological disparity of the two groups, validates the ordinal status of Mantophasmatodea.
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