Wednesday 12 December 2012

A new species of Scorpionfly from Baltic Amber.

The Scorpionflies (Mecoptera) are a group of insects related to the True Flies. They get their name from the reproductive organs of the males of some species, which resemble the tails of Scorpions. Despite this fierce appearance most species are harmless herbivores, though it is thought that fleas are highly specialized members of the group, and the True Flies, Butterflies and Moths may have evolved from the group in the Mesozoic. The group has a fossil record dating back to the Permian, and it has been suggested that the Scorpionflies were the first Insects to pollenate plants, possibly pollenating gymnospermous plants in the Jurassic before the origin of true flowering plants.

In a paper published in the journal Systematic Entomology in January 2012, Wiesław Krzemiński of the Institute of Systematic and Evolution of Animals at the Polish Academy of Sciences, and Agnieszka Soszyńska-Maj of the Department of Invertebrate Zoology and Hydrobiology at the University of Łódź, describe a new species of Scorpionfly from Middle Eocene Baltic Amber, roughly 45 million years old.

The new species is named Baltipanorpa damzeni, meaning Damzen's Baltic Scorpionfly, after Jonas Damzen, who first discovered the specimens. The Species is described from two male specimens, both about 16 mm in length. These differ significantly from other known members of the group in the structure of their reproductive apparatus and wing venation, suggesting they are not closely related to other known species.

Specimen of Baltipanorpa damzeni preserved in amber. Krzemiński & Soszyńska-Maj (2012).

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