Butterflies are beautiful fairies flying around us, and in the distant dinosaur era, there were also a group of beautiful veinpterans flying like butterflies. Who are they? They are the extinct Kalligrammatidae (Kalligrammatidae) in the order Neuroptera. As a very important and unique group in the order Neuroptera, their fossils have only been discovered from the Jurassic to the Cretaceous period.
Insects of the Lacewing family are usually huge (generally, the wings of Lacewing family members range from a few centimeters to a dozen centimeters, but most members have a wingspan of more than 10 cm, while members of other families in the order Neuroptera The wingspan is more than 10 cm), with long mouthparts, bright and varied colors, dense bristles on the body and wings, wide wings with various wing spots and stripes, and most of the Lacewings Large and eye-catching eye spots develop on insect wings. Eye spots usually refer to approximately circular eye-like patterns. They are found in insects (such as Lepidoptera) and many other animal groups. Among the Neuropteran insects, the Lachiidae is the only group with huge eye spots.
Scientists speculate that the eye spots on the wings of Lacewing insects may have a variety of potential functions, such as peculiar patterns to intimidate predators or play an important role in communication within the population; amazing eye spot patterns may also be related to sex. The choice is relevant. All this easily reminds people of the butterflies that live around us. Therefore, Lacewings are often compared by scientists to the “butterfly” of the Jurassic or the “butterfly” of the dinosaur era. But the wings of Lacewing insects have dense and complicated wing veins, which is very different from the butterflies belonging to the order Lepidoptera. Not only that, Lacewings also appeared on the earth tens of millions of years earlier than the real butterflies. .
Discovery of Daohugou Biota
A large number of beautifully preserved Lacewing insect fossils have been widely discovered and reported in Asia, Europe and America. However, most members of the Lacewing family are found in Asia. Therefore, on this basis, some scholars believe that Lacewing may originate in Asia.
China has a vast territory, vast land and abundant resources, and extremely rich fossil resources. The western part of Liaoning Province, the southeastern part of Inner Mongolia, and the northern part of Hebei Province are China’s well-known Mesozoic fossil producing areas, which are rich in vertebrates, invertebrates and plant fossils. The most famous Jehol biota was found in this area. The Daohugou Biota, which is earlier than the Rehe Biota, is also an important paleontological fossil group discovered in the middle and late Mesozoic in northern China in recent years. In this biota, insect fossils are abundant and well-preserved, and it is now considered to be the most important insect fossil library in the world. Neuroptera insects also occupy a very important position in the insect group of Daohugou Biota. A large number of Neuroptera insects are perfectly preserved, including a large number of Lacewing insects, such as the beautiful Huiying lacewing ( Huiyingogramma formosum) and Kalligramma paradoxum (Kalligramma paradoxum).
The forewings of the beautiful Huiying Lacewing are ovoid and relatively wide, with dense longitudinal and transverse veins all over the wing, and the length of a single wing can reach about 8 cm. There are striped wing patterns on the wings, and has a prominent eye spot structure. The eye spots are dark brown and sub-circular in shape. They are roughly located in the middle and back of the wings. The base edge of the eye spots is wavy, and there are two small gray spots in the center of the eye spots. There are also two circles of decorations around the eye spots, accompanied by a number of band-shaped decorations arranged irregularly at the base of the eye spots.
The forewing of Strange Lacewing is long ovoid and wide, and the length of a single wing is about 9 cm. The longitudinal and transverse veins on the entire wing are staggered into a network, which is extremely developed. There are two nearly circular ring patterns on the wings, and there are also some irregular strips near the rear edge of the wings. The eye spots of Strange Lacewing are located in the middle and back of the wings, dark brown and round. There is a white dot in the middle of the eye spot, and a string of light-colored dots behind the eye spot. Among the Lacewing fossils that have been reported by scientists, complete individual specimens that are well-preserved and capable of preserving both the fore and hind wings are extremely rare. Because of geological preservation, most of the genera and species of Lacewings are It is based on a single forewing or hindwing specimen.
Burmese amber helps research
In recent years, scientists have also discovered well-preserved fossils of Lacewing insects in Burmese amber in the Middle Cretaceous. The newly discovered complete specimens provide a lot of important information for the study of Lacewing insects.
Burmogramma liui (Burmogramma liui) shows that the male antennae have a rare comb-like structure, while the female has a rosary-like structure. The comb-shaped antennae increase the surface area of the antennae and the sensitivity of the sensor, and also enhance the male’s ability to sense the sex hormones released by the female. This indicates that the lily flies in the Cretaceous period may have long-distance chemical communication capabilities. In addition, the mouthparts of different species of Lacewings found in Burmese amber also have a high degree of differentiation. The highly diversified length of the mouthparts reflects the diversity of their feeding plants and flower tube length, which indicates pollination. The niche differentiation of insects appeared before the rapid evolution of angiosperms.
In the late Mesozoic, large-scale changes occurred in the ecological environment. The proportion of gymnosperms gradually decreased, and angiosperms began to dominate. This may have caused great changes in the environment in which gymnosperm-based insects depend on survival. Leading to their extinction