Insights into the origin and evolution of the long-proboscid scorpionfly family Aneuretopsychidae (Mecoptera) based on new Mesozoic and Palaeozoic records

Publication Type:Conference Paper
Year of Publication:2016
Authors:A. S. Bashkuev
Conference Name:The 7th International Conference on Fossil Insects, Arthropods and Amber
Date Published:26/04/2016
Publisher:Siri Scientific Press
Conference Location:National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

The extinct, mainly Jurassic–Cretaceous family Aneuretopsychidae Rasnitsyn & Kozlov, 1990 is a small, compact group of highly specialised insects, comprising seven described species in two genera. They are a part of the major clade of basal Mecoptera, the Aneuretopsychina, which are characterised by having elongate, siphonate proboscides, and apparently fed on pollination drops of gymnosperms. Aneuretopsychidae have a set of unique morphological features and strikingly differ from all other Mecoptera in appearance, resembling moths or cicadas. The wing structure and venation of Mesozoic aneuretopsychids are highly modified. The structure of the anal area in the forewing is unique in having specific anal loops that are possibly functionally related to wing folding. The homology of their constituent veins, however, is unclear. These loops appear to be an apomorphic feature of the entire family, although sometimes they are hardly discernable when the wings are folded over the body in the completely preserved specimens, and therefore are missed in descriptions.The new finds represented by well preserved forewings from the Lower Cretaceous of Russia and Mongolia and the Jurassic of Karatau reveal some evolutionary trends in venation patterns of aneuretopsychids and indicate a high diversity of the group in the Mesozoic. Furthermore, an isolated wing referable to Aneuretopsychidae was found in the transitional Permian–Triassic deposits of European Russia (the Nedubrovo beds). Its venation corresponds to the general venation scheme of Aneuretopsychidae, with several shared synapomorphies. Another, even older (Late Permian) representative, Neudolbenus Bashkuev, 2013, was described previously in the Permochoristidae; it is reinterpreted here as a basal aneuretopsychid and assigned to a new subfamily. Neudolbenus has an unmodified venation and demonstrates some plesiomorphic characters, such as a six-branched M of permochoristid type and the undeveloped, albeit outlined, loop in the anal area, formed by the oblique crossvein a1–a2. In the Nedubrovo specimen, there are two anal loops, also formed by crossveins, but more expressed than in Neudolbenus. These loops look similar to, and are possibly homologous with, the anal loops of Mesozoic aneuretopsychids, and therefore allow a better understanding of evolution of the wing venation in this family. The new finds shed light on the origin and phylogeny of Aneuretopsychidae by linking them to one of the Late Permian permochoristid lineages, with Neudolbenus as an intermediate form.

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