Monday, 5 May 2014

A Hangingfly from the Early Cretaceous Jehol Biota.

Hangingflies are long-legged Scorpionflies (Mecoptera), a group of insects related to the True Flies. Scorpionflies get their name from the reproductive organs of the males of some species, which resemble the tails of Scorpions. Despite this fierce appearance most species are harmless herbivores, though it is thought that fleas are highly specialised members of the group, and the True Flies, Butterflies and Moths may have evolved from the group in the Mesozoic. The group has a fossil record dating back to the Permian, and it has been suggested that the Scorpionflies were the first Insects to pollinate plants, possibly pollinating gymnospermous plants in the Jurassic before the origin of true flowering plants.

In a paper published in the journal Acta Geologica Sinica in February 2014, Wang Chen, Shih Chungkun and Ren Dong of the Key Laboratory of Insect Evolution and Environmental Changes at the College of Life Sciences at Capital Normal University describe a new species of Hangingfly from the Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation of Liutiaogou in Inner Mongolia, part of the Jehol Biota.

The new species is considered to be a member of the Cimbrophlebiidae, an extinct family of Hangingflies known from the Middle Jurassic to the the Early Eocene, but not previously described from the Jehol Biota. It is placed in the genus Cimbrophlebia and given the specific name rara, meaning rare. It is described from a single specimen preserved as part and counterpart within a split block.

Cimbrophlebia rara, part (a) and counterpart (b). Wang et al. (2014).

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