Phoenix Group

Evolutionary Ecology & Genetics

@ Te Taha Tawhiti Massey

Prasad Doddala <>


I was born in a small rural village in south India where we get extremely hot and humid days throughout the year; though I have to agree we have very mild and pleasant winters. My passion towards natural world motivated me to opt for biological sciences during intermediate (class 11 & 12) and I went on to study Agriculture for my bachelor's degree. After graduating from Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University with a Masters degree majoring in Entomology, I worked few years for Tobacco Board, India. I moved to New Zealand in 2007 to pursue doctoral studies at Massey University.


Research interests

I am broadly interested in insect ecology with special interest on systematics, insect-plant associations, insect biodiversity and ecosystem function. I have previously worked on pest management in agriculture and I still maintain interests for environment-friendly insect pest control in primary production systems. Apart from these, I actively learn and practice webdesign and seek to refine skills in statsitical modelling.

My PhD programme is focused on the systematics and ecology of a genus of native leaf beetles. Commonly referred to as “bronze beetles” in New Zealand, Eucolaspis Sharp 1886 belongs to the sub-family Eumolpinae (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). Like many other members of this sub-family, species of Eucolaspis are polyphagous herbivores. The beetles feed on many different tree and shrub species, including both New Zealand native plants and several economically important introduced fruit crops. In some instances Eucolaspis infestations of orchard crops such as apple (Rosaceae) result in severely distorted and un-exportable fruit. Potentially high return organic orchards systems appear to be especially susceptible. This has important evolutionary and management implications.

Species complexity: The genus Eucolaspis Sharp 1886 has poorly resolved species taxonomy, with imprecise descriptions. The initial descriptions of the 15 endemic species  were mostly based on colour and size variation, and the details of descriptions were often not diagnostic. A later treatment  inferred fewer species, but here too, characters and states used for diagnosis were often unstable. Unresolved taxonomy is an impediment to most aspects of biology and in this case also horticulture. The number of existing species and the particular species infesting apple orchards are often debated.  We are using an integrative taxonomy approach based on morphological, molecular and ecological data, to unravel phylogenetic diversity of Eucolaspis. Extensive fresh sampling across New Zealand plus museum material are used for this study.

Life cycle and ecology: The ecological basis for Eucolaspis establishment in NZ organic apple orchards is studied using:

Bronze beetles

Eucolaspis sp. beetles feeding on blackberry

Bronze beetle damaging apple fruit

Eucolaspis sp. beetle feeding on Royal Gala apple fruit-let

Pitfall trap

Me checking a pitfall trap


Refereed journal articles

Doddala P.R.C., Trewick S., Rogers D.J. and Minor M.A., 2012. Predictive modelling of adult emergence in a polyphagous leaf beetle, Eucolaspis (Chrysomelidae: Eumolpinae). Journal of Economic Entomology (in press)

Doddala P.R.C., Minor M.A., and Rogers D.J. 2010. Population dynamics of bronze beetle, Eucolaspis spp (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) in relation to other soil macro-invertebrates in organic apple orchards in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. New Zealand Plant Protection 63:195-200.(PDF)

Doddala P.R.C., and B. Rosaiah. 2001. Evaluation of different insecticides against serpentine leaf miner Liriomyza trifolii (Burgess) (Agromyzidae: Diptera) on tomato. PestologyXXV (2): 37-39.

Doddala P.R.C., and B. Rosaiah. 2000. Seasonal occurrence of Liriomyza trifolii (Burgess) (Agromyzidae: Diptera) on tomato crop and its relation with weather parameters. Pest Management and Economic Zoology 8(1): 91-95.

Manuscripts under review

Doddala P.R.C., Minor M.A., Rogers D.J. and Trewick S. 2012. Systematics and diversity of a native beetle genus, Eucolaspis, from New Zealand.

Doddala P.R.C., Trewick S., Wang Q., Rogers D.J. and Minor M.A. 2012. Role of olfaction in host plant selection and local adaptation in a polyphagous herbivore, Eucolaspis Sharp (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae).

Doddala P.R.C., Wang Q., Trewick S., Rogers D.J. and Minor M.A., 2012. Mating biology of a native leaf beetle: evidence for a female-produced contact sex pheromone?

Selected abstracts

Doddala P.R.C., Minor M.A., Trewick S., and Rogers D.J. 2011. Modeling emergence of bronze beetle (Eucolaspis sp.) adults using degree-days and threshold temperatures. Abstract of the poster presented at the New Zealand Plant Protection Society’s 64th annual conference held at Rotorua during 9-11th  August 2011. New Zealand Plant Protection 64: 290

Doddala P.R.C., Trewick S., Minor M.A., and Rogers D.J. 2011. Taxonomic inflation? Assessing the case of a native beetle genus Eucolaspis from New Zealand. Proceedings of the BioSystematics Berlin 2011 conference held at Berlin, Germany21-27th February 2011. p 99.

Manuscripts in preparation

Doddala P.R.C., Trewick S., Rogers D.J. and Minor M.A. 2012. Abnormal sex ratios in Eucolaspis sp.

Doddala P.R.C., Minor M.A. and Trewick S, 2012. Host plants of New Zealand leaf beetles, Eucolaspis (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae).


Conference presenations

  • The Entomological Society of New Zealand’s 61st annual conference held at Whangarei from 17-20 April 2012 (oral presentation).
  • 14th Annual New Zealand Molecular Ecology meeting held at Akitio, New Zealand from 25-27 November 2011 (oral presentation).
  • 3rd Combined Australian and New Zealand Entomological Societies conference held at Lincoln University, Christchurh, New Zealand from 29 August-1 September 2011 (oral presentation).
  • New Zealand Plant Protection Society’s 64th annual conference held at Rotorua, New Zealand from 9-11  August 2011 (poster presentation).
  • Global Conference on Entomology (GCE2011) held at Chiang Mai, Thailand from 5-9 March 2011 (oral presentation).
  • New Zealand Plant Protection Society’s 63rd annual conference held at New Plymouth, New Zealand from 11-13 August 2010 (oral presentation).
  • The Entomological Society of New Zealand’s 59th annual conference held at Victoria University of New Zealand, Wellington from 11-14 April 2010 (oral presentation).


Scholarships and Awards

  • 2011 Massey University Doctoral completion bursary
  • 2011 Helen E AKers PhD Scholarship
  • 2011 New Zealand Plant Protection Society conference travel grant
  • 2011 ICSEB student award
  • 2010 New Zealand Plant Protection Society conference travel gran.
  • 2010 Helen E Akers PhD scholarship
  • 2009 Lovell & Berys Clark scholarship
  • 2008 D J McGowan Scholarship
  • 2006 Chairman’s Medal for meritorious performance as Field Officer in Tobacco Board (then employer)


Professional associations

  • Member of The Entomological Society of New Zealand
  • Member of New Zealand Plant Protection Society
  • Member of Society of Systematic Biologists


Key collaborations