Monday 19 August 2013

Two new species of Dustywing from Tertiary amber.

The Dustrywings (Coniopterygidae) are small (usually under 5 mm) Insects related to Lacewings and Ant-lions. They are numerous and widespread, being found in woodland all over the world, where they feed on small Arthropods living on trees and shrubs. Largely because of their affinity for woodland and small size, they have an excellent fossil recored, with specimens preserved in amber being found across much of the globe from the Cretaceous onwards.

In a paper published in the American Museum Novitates on 22 February 2013, David Grimaldi, Michael Engel and Paul Nascrimbene of the Division of Invertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History and Hukam Singh of the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany in Lucknow, describe two new species of Dustywing from Tertiary amber, discovered as part of a wider study into members of the genus Spiloconis, and related members of the subfamily Aleuropteryginae.

The first new species described is placed in the genus Spiloconis, and given the specific name Spiloconis eominuta, where 'eo-' means dawn, or early, as well as implying the Eocene Epoch, from which the species dates and '-minuta' means minute, a reference to the size of the Insect. Spiloconis eominuta is described from two male specimens from a single piece of early Eocene Cambay amber, from the Tadkeshwar Lignite Mines in Surat District, Gujarat State, India, and is thought to be around 52 million years old. It is a notably small species, around 1.5 mm in length, but the specimens are definitely adults as larval forms do not have wings.

Two specimens of Spiloconis eominuta, both male, from early Eocene Cambay Amber. Grimaldi et al. (2013).

The forewing (top) and front part of the body of Spiloconis eominutaGrimaldi et al. (2013).

The second new species is placed in the closely related genus Neoconis, and given the specific name Neoconis paleocaribis, where 'paleocaribis' means ancient Caribbean. The species is described from a single female specimen from Miocene amber mined just north of Santiago in the Dominican Republic, thought to be between 17 and 20 million years old. The specimen is about 2.4 mm in length.

Neoconis paleocaribis, female specimen in Miocene Dominican Amber. Grimaldi et al. (2013).

The forewing of Neoconis paleocaribisGrimaldi et al. (2013).

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