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Scientists Discover Ancient Mayfly Relative

July 19, 2011

German scientists have discovered new ancient relatives of the modern mayfly from the Lower Cretaceous of South America.

The experts discovered adult winged specimens and preserved larvae to clarify the phylogenetic position of the insects.

The insects were equipped with wing venation of a mayfly, breast and wing shape of a dragonfly, and legs of a praying mantis.  However, the larvae look more like freshwater shrimps. 

The scientists said some of their characters clearly suggest a fluvial habitat. 

The insects’ unique anatomy indicates that these animals were ambush predators living partly dug in the river bed. 

The animals also provide clues to the long-standing controversial debate of the evolutionary origin of the insect wing, according to basal insects experts Dr. Arnold H. Staniczek and Dr. Gnter Bechly. 

The two believe that wings originated from thoracic backplates, while leg genes were recruited for their developmental control.

The scientists conclude that the discovery of Coxoplectroptera contributes to a better understanding of insect evolution.

Their research was published in the scientific journal Insect Systematics & Evolution.

Image Caption: Coxoplectoptera. Credit: Staatliches Museum fr Naturkunde Stuttgart (Germany)

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