A 100-million-year old slim insectan predator with massive venom-injecting stylets - a new type of neuropteran larva from Burmese amber


Authors: Haug JT, Müller P, Haug C

Published in: Bulletin of Geosciences, volume 94, issue 4; pages: 431 - 440; Received 18 March 2019; Accepted in revised form 21 October 2019; Online 10 December 2019

Keywords: Neuroptera, Myrmeleontiformia, extreme morphologies, palaeo-evo-devo, fossilised ontogeny,

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Lacewings (Neuroptera) have highly specialised larval stages. These are predators with mouthparts modified into venom-injecting stylets. These stylets can take various forms, especially in relation to their body. Especially large stylets are known in larva of the neuropteran ingroups Osmylidae (giant lacewings or lance lacewings) and Sisyridae (spongilla flies). Here the stylets are straight, the bodies are rather slender. In the better known larvae of Myrmeleontidae (ant lions) and their relatives (e.g. owlflies, Ascalaphidae) stylets are curved and bear numerous prominent teeth. Here the stylets can also reach large sizes; the body and especially the head are relatively broad. We here describe a new type of larva from Burmese amber (100 million years old) with very prominent curved stylets, yet body and head are rather slender. Such a combination is unknown in the modern fauna. We provide a comparison with other fossil neuropteran larvae that show some similarities with the new larva. The new larva is unique in processing distinct protrusions on the trunk segments. Also the ratio of the length of the stylets vs. the width of the head is the highest ratio among all neuropteran larvae with curved stylets and reaches values only found in larvae with straight mandibles. We discuss possible phylogenetic systematic interpretations of the new larva and aspects of the diversity of neuropteran larvae in the Cretaceous.


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