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Ovipositor and mouthparts in a fossil insect support a novel ecological role for early orthopterans in 300 million years old forests

Abstract : A high portion of the earliest known insect fauna is composed of the so-called 'lobeattid insects', whose systematic affinities and role as foliage feeders remain debated. We investigated hundreds of samples of a new lobeattid species from the Xiaheyan locality using a combination of photographic techniques, including reflectance transforming imaging, geometric morphometrics, and biomechanics to document its morphology, and infer its phylogenetic position and ecological role. Ctenoptilus frequens sp. nov. possessed a sword-shaped ovipositor with valves interlocked by two ball-and-socket mechanisms, lacked jumping hind-legs, and certain wing venation features. This combination of characters unambiguously supports lobeattids as stem relatives of all living Orthoptera (crickets, grasshoppers, katydids). Given the herein presented and other remains, it follows that this group experienced an early diversification and, additionally, occurred in high individual numbers. The ovipositor shape indicates that ground was the preferred substrate for eggs. Visible mouthparts made it possible to assess the efficiency of the mandibular food uptake system in comparison to a wide array of extant species. The new species was likely omnivorous which explains the paucity of external damage on contemporaneous plant foliage.
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Contributor : Olivier Béthoux Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Tuesday, November 30, 2021 - 11:05:04 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, January 4, 2022 - 6:13:21 AM

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Lu Chen, Jun-Jie Gu, Qiang Yang, Dong Ren, Alexander Blanke, et al.. Ovipositor and mouthparts in a fossil insect support a novel ecological role for early orthopterans in 300 million years old forests. eLife, eLife Sciences Publication, 2021, 10, pp.e71006. ⟨10.7554/eLife.71006⟩. ⟨mnhn-03456701⟩

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