Insects are the most speciose group of animals, but the phylogenetic relationships of many major lineages remain unresolved. We inferred the phylogeny of insects from 1478 protein-coding genes. Phylogenomic analyses of nucleotide and amino acid sequences, with site-specific nucleotide or domain-specific amino acid substitution models, produced statistically robust and congruent results resolving previously controversial phylogenetic relations hips. We dated the origin of insects to the Early Ordovician [~479 million years ago (Ma)], of insect flight to the Early Devonian (~406 Ma), of major extant lineages to the Mississippian (~345 Ma), and the major diversification of holometabolous insects to the Early Cretaceous. Our phylogenomic study provides a comprehensive reliable scaffold for future comparative analyses of evolutionary innovations among insects.
The reconstruction of ancient insect ectoparasitism is challenging, mostly because of the extreme scarcity of fossils with obvious ectoparasitic features such as sucking-piercing mouthparts and specialized attachment organs. Here we describe a bizarre fly larva (Diptera), Qiyia jurassica gen. et sp. nov., from the Jurassic of China, that represents a stem group of the tabanomorph family Athericidae. Q. jurassica exhibits adaptations to an aquatic habitat. More importantly, it preserves an unusual combination of features including a thoracic sucker with six radial ridges, unique in insects, piercing-sucking mouthparts for fluid feeding, and crocheted ventral prolegs with upward directed bristles for anchoring and movement while submerged. We demonstrate that Q. jurassica was an aquatic ectoparasitic insect, probably feeding on the blood of salamanders. The finding reveals an extreme morphological specialization of fly larvae, and broadens our understanding of the diversity of ectoparasitism in Mesozoic insects.DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.02844.001.
Paleogene arthropod biotas have proved important for tracing the faunal turnover and intercontinental faunal interchange driven by climatic warming and geodynamic events [1-5]. Despite the large number of Paleogene fossil arthropods in Europe and North America [5-8], little is known about the typical Asian (Laurasia-originated) arthropod biota. Here, we report a unique amber biota (50-53 million years ago) from the Lower Eocene of Fushun in northeastern China, which fills a large biogeographic gap in Eurasia. Fushun amber is derived from cupressaceous trees, as determined by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, infrared spectroscopy, and paleobotanical observations. Twenty-two orders and more than 80 families of arthropods have been reported so far, making it among the most diverse amber biotas. Our results reveal that an apparent radiation of ecological keystone insects, including eusocial, phytophagous, and parasitoid lineages, occurred at least during the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum. Some insect taxa have close phylogenetic affinities to those from coeval European ambers, showing a biotic interchange between the eastern and western margins of the Eurasian landmass during the Early Paleogene.
Although plant-arthropod relationships underpin the dramatic rise in diversity and ecological dominance of flowering plants and their associated arthropods, direct observations of such interactions in the fossil record are rare, as these ephemeral moments are difficult to preserve. Three-dimensionally preserved charred remains of Chloranthistemon flowers from the Late Albian to Early Cenomanian of Germany preserve scales of mosquitoes and an oribatid mite with mouthparts inserted into the pollen sac. Mosquitoes, which today are frequent nectar feeders, and the mite were feeding on pollen at the time wildfire consumed the flowers. These findings document directly arthropod feeding strategies and their role in decomposition.
A commented list of fossil Odonata from the Oligocene outcrop of Rott is given, together with descriptions of new traces of oviposition in plant tissues, very similar to ichnotaxa already known from the early Eocene Laguna del Hunco floras of Patagonia. The joint presences of odonatan larvae and traces of oviposition demonstrate the autochthony of these insects in the palaeolake of Rott, confirming the existence of a diverse and abundant aquatic entomofauna, a situation strikingly different to that in the contemporaneous Oligocene palaeolake of Céreste (France).
Remipedia is one of the most recently discovered classes of crustaceans, first described in 1981 from anchialine caves in the Bahamas Archipelago. The class is divided into the order Enantiopoda, represented by two fossil species, and Nectiopoda, which contains all known extant remipedes. Since their discovery, the number of nectiopodan species has increased to 24, half of which were described during the last decade. Nectiopoda exhibit a disjunct global distribution pattern, with the highest abundance and diversity in the Caribbean region, and isolated species in the Canary Islands and in Western Australia. Our review of Remipedia provides an overview of their ecological characteristics, including a detailed list of all anchialine marine caves, from which species have been recorded. We discuss alternative hypotheses of the phylogenetic position of Remipedia within Arthropoda, and present first results of an ongoing molecular-phylogenetic analysis that do not support the monophyly of several nectiopodan taxa. We believe that a taxonomic revision of Remipedia is absolutely essential, and that a comprehensive revision should include a reappraisal of the fossil record.
For nearly 100 million years, the India subcontinent drifted from Gondwana until its collision with Asia some 50 Ma, during which time the landmass presumably evolved a highly endemic biota. Recent excavations of rich outcrops of 50-52-million-year-old amber with diverse inclusions from the Cambay Shale of Gujarat, western India address this issue. Cambay amber occurs in lignitic and muddy sediments concentrated by near-shore chenier systems; its chemistry and the anatomy of associated fossil wood indicates a definitive source of Dipterocarpaceae. The amber is very partially polymerized and readily dissolves in organic solvents, thus allowing extraction of whole insects whose cuticle retains microscopic fidelity. Fourteen orders and more than 55 families and 100 species of arthropod inclusions have been discovered thus far, which have affinities to taxa from the Eocene of northern Europe, to the Recent of Australasia, and the Miocene to Recent of tropical America. Thus, India just prior to or immediately following contact shows little biological insularity. A significant diversity of eusocial insects are fossilized, including corbiculate bees, rhinotermitid termites, and modern subfamilies of ants (Formicidae), groups that apparently radiated during the contemporaneous Early Eocene Climatic Optimum or just prior to it during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Cambay amber preserves a uniquely diverse and early biota of a modern-type of broad-leaf tropical forest, revealing 50 Ma of stasis and change in biological communities of the dipterocarp primary forests that dominate southeastern Asia today.
Insect herbivores are considered vulnerable to extinctions of their plant hosts. Previous studies of insect-damaged fossil leaves in the US Western Interior showed major plant and insect herbivore extinction at the Cretaceous-Palaeogene (K-T) boundary. Further, the regional plant-insect system remained depressed or ecologically unbalanced throughout the Palaeocene. Whereas Cretaceous floras had high plant and insect-feeding diversity, all Palaeocene assemblages to date had low richness of plants, insect feeding or both. Here, we use leaf fossils from the middle Palaeocene Menat site, France, which has the oldest well-preserved leaf assemblage from the Palaeocene of Europe, to test the generality of the observed Palaeocene US pattern. Surprisingly, Menat combines high floral diversity with high insect activity, making it the first observation of a healthy Palaeocene plant-insect system. Furthermore, rich and abundant leaf mines across plant species indicate well-developed host specialization. The diversity and complexity of plant-insect interactions at Menat suggest that the net effects of the K-T extinction were less at this greater distance from the Chicxulub, Mexico, impact site. Along with the available data from other regions, our results show that the end-Cretaceous event did not cause a uniform, long-lasting depression of global terrestrial ecosystems. Rather, it gave rise to varying regional patterns of ecological collapse and recovery that appear to have been strongly influenced by distance from the Chicxulub structure.
Great-appendage arthropods, characterized by a highly modified anterior limb, were previously unknown after the Middle Cambrian. One fossil from the Lower Devonian Hunsrück Slate, Germany, extends the stratigraphic range of these arthropods by approximately 100 million years. Schinderhannes bartelsi shows an unusual combination of anomalocaridid and euarthropod characters, including a highly specialized swimming appendage. A cladistic analysis indicates that the new taxon is basal to crown-group euarthropods and that the great-appendage arthropods are paraphyletic. This new fossil shows that features of the anomalocaridids, including the multisegmented raptorial appendage and circular plated mouth, persisted long after the initial radiation of the euarthropods.
The Eocene, a time of fluctuating environmental change and biome evolution, was generally driven by exceptionally warm temperatures. The Messel (47.8 Ma) and Eckfeld (44.3 Ma) deposits offer a rare opportunity to take a census of two, deep-time ecosystems occurring during a greenhouse system. An understanding of the long-term consequences of extreme warming and cooling events during this interval, particularly on angiosperms and insects that dominate terrestrial biodiversity, can provide insights into the biotic consequences of current global climatic warming.
A new arthropod from the Lower Devonian Hunsrück Slate is described on the basis of four specimens. The body of Captopodus poschmanni comprises a head, a trunk with an anal portion. The high number of trunk appendages (?66 segments) is unusual. The function of one pair of cupola-like structures of the head shield is unclear. The presence of large grasping appendages in the head superficially resembles the short great appendages of other euarthropods and grasping appendages of thylacocephalans. The phylogenetic position of the arthropod cannot be determined in detail, though several morphological aspects indicate a phylogenetic position as a stem lineage representative of the Euarthropoda, the morphology of the trunk appendages seem to indicate a more advanced phylogenetic position. This new taxon underlines the exceptional diversity of arthropods within the Hunsrück Slate in comparison to other Devonian fossil sites and highlights the significance of the Hunsrück Slate for the evolution of early arthropods.
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