Honors & Awards

  • Honorary Academic, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland (2014)
  • Dean's List of Excellent Theses, University of Auckland (2013)
  • Highly Commended Electron Micrograph, BIRU, Faculty of Medical & Health Sciences, University of Auckland (2011)
  • KJ Fox Award, New Zealand Entomology Society (2011)
  • Best Oral Presentation (3rd Prize), New Zealand Microbiology Society (2010)
  • University of Auckland International Doctoral Scholar, University of Auckland (2009)
  • Best Oral Presentation (!st Prize), New Zealand Microbiology Society (2008)

Professional Education

  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Auckland (2013)
  • Master of Science, University of Auckland (2009)
  • Bachelor of Science, University of Auckland (2008)

Stanford Advisors

Community and International Work

  • Genome sequencing of scale insect primary symbiont, Auckland, New Zealand


    genomics, symbiont

    Partnering Organization(s)

    University of Auckland, Landcare Research Ltd.



    Ongoing Project


    Opportunities for Student Involvement


All Publications

  • Primary symbiont of the ancient scale insect family Coelostomidiidae exhibits strict cophylogenetic patterns SYMBIOSIS Dhami, M. K., Buckley, T. R., Beggs, J. R., Taylor, M. W. 2013; 61 (2): 77-91
  • Diverse Honeydew-Consuming Fungal Communities Associated with Scale Insects PLOS ONE Dhami, M. K., Weir, B. S., Taylor, M. W., Beggs, J. R. 2013; 8 (7)


    Sooty mould fungi are ubiquitous, abundant consumers of insect-honeydew that have been little-studied. They form a complex of unrelated fungi that coexist and compete for honeydew, which is a chemically complex resource. In this study, we used scanning electron microscopy in combination with T-RFLP community profiling and ITS-based tag-pyrosequencing to extensively describe the sooty mould community associated with the honeydews of two ecologically important New Zealand coelostomidiid scale insects, Coelostomidia wairoensis and Ultracoelostoma brittini. We tested the influence of host plant on the community composition of associated sooty moulds, and undertook limited analyses to examine the influence of scale insect species and geographic location. We report here a previously unknown degree of fungal diversity present in this complex, with pyrosequencing detecting on average 243 operational taxonomic units across the different sooty mould samples. In contrast, T-RFLP detected only a total of 24 different "species" (unique peaks). Nevertheless, both techniques identified similar patterns of diversity suggesting that either method is appropriate for community profiling. The composition of the microbial community associated with individual scale insect species varied although the differences may in part reflect variation in host preference and site. Scanning electron microscopy visualised an intertwined mass of fungal hyphae and fruiting bodies in near-intact physical condition, but was unable to distinguish between the different fungal communities on a morphological level, highlighting the need for molecular research. The substantial diversity revealed for the first time by pyrosequencing and our inability to identify two-thirds of the diversity to further than the fungal division highlights the significant gap in our knowledge of these fungal groups. This study provides a first extensive look at the community diversity of the fungal community closely associated with the keystone insect-honeydew systems of New Zealand's native forests and suggests there is much to learn about sooty mould communities.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0070316

    View details for Web of Science ID 000322838900166

    View details for PubMedID 23922978

  • Ultrastructural and molecular characterization of a bacterial symbiosis in the ecologically important scale insect family Coelostomidiidae FEMS MICROBIOLOGY ECOLOGY Dhami, M. K., Turner, A. P., Deines, P., Beggs, J. R., Taylor, M. W. 2012; 81 (3): 537-546


    Scale insects are important ecologically and as agricultural pests. The majority of scale insect taxa feed exclusively on plant phloem sap, which is carbon rich but deficient in essential amino acids. This suggests that, as seen in the related aphids and psyllids, scale insect nutrition might also depend upon bacterial symbionts, yet very little is known about scale insect-bacteria symbioses. We report here the first identification and molecular characterization of symbiotic bacteria associated with the New Zealand giant scale Coelostomidia wairoensis, using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and 16S rRNA gene-based analysis. Dissection and FISH confirmed the location of the bacteria in large, paired, multilobate organs in the abdominal region of the insect. TEM indicated that the dominant pleomorphic bacteria were confined to bacteriocytes in the sheath-enclosed bacteriome. Phylogenetic analysis revealed the presence of three distinct bacterial types, the bacteriome-associated B-symbiont (Bacteroidetes), an Erwinia-related symbiont (Gammaproteobacteria) and Wolbachia sp. (Alphaproteobacteria). This study extends the current knowledge of scale insect symbionts and is the first microbiological investigation of the ecologically important coelostomidiid scales.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/j.1574-6941.2012.01378.x

    View details for Web of Science ID 000307168900003

    View details for PubMedID 22468989

  • Species-Specific Chemical Signatures in Scale Insect Honeydew JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL ECOLOGY Dhami, M. K., Gardner-Gee, R., Van Houtte, J., Villas-Boas, S. G., Beggs, J. R. 2011; 37 (11): 1231-1241


    The quantity and chemical composition of honeydew produced by scale insects may influence wider community structure, but little is known about the detailed chemical composition of the honeydew found in forest ecosystems. We used gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to examine the amino acid and carbohydrate composition of honeydew from three New Zealand communities. Low molecular weight carbohydrates (mono-, di-, and tri-saccharides) were derivatized using a modified trimethylsilyl (TMS) method, and amino and non-amino organic acids were derivatized using methylchloroformate (MCF). These recently developed derivatization methods allowed us to detect atypical compounds such as sugar alcohols, fatty acids, and non-amino organic acids, in addition to the more routinely studied compounds such as sugars and amino acids. Some compounds could not be identified and may be novel. Multivariate analysis showed that honeydew from each scale insect species had a distinctive amino acid and carbohydrate signature. We suggest these chemical signatures may influence the types of consumers that are attracted to different honeydews and may explain the characteristic communities associated with these honeydews.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s10886-011-0030-5

    View details for Web of Science ID 000297735800011

    View details for PubMedID 22089823