Friday 20 September 2013

A fossil Cockroach from the Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation of Liaoning Province, China.

Cockroaches (Blattida) are an ancient group of Insects which first appeared in the Carboniferous. They are closely related to Mantises (Mantodea) and Termites (Isoptera), with the latter group now generally being accepted to be specialized Cockroaches. Cockroaches are predominantly omnivorous detritivores. They breed rapidly, form large swarms and leave trails of pheromone-infused feces as a means of communication, which makes them unpopular visitors in human residences, where they can serve as vectors for diseases. Cockroaches undergo hemimetabolous development; the larval forms resemble the adults, and never pupate or undergo a radical metamorphosis during their development. 

In a paper published in the journal ZooKeys on 23 July 2013, Chongda Wang and Dong Ren of the College of Life Sciences at Capital Normal University in Beijing describe a new species of Cockroach from the Jehol Biota of the Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation Liaoning Province, China.

The new species is placed in the genus Nuurcala, and given the specific name obesa, meaning fat. Nuurcala obesa is described from a partially preserved specimen with both fore- and hind-wings and a body, plus three isolated forewings. The preserved body is 23.8 mm in length, and it is estimated that the living animal would have been 25.2 mm long (the tip of the abdomen is not preserved).

Nuurcala obesa, line drawing (top) and photograph (bottom). Wang & Ren (2013).

Nuurcala obesa is placed in the extinct Family Caloblattinidae, the dominant group of Cockroaches in many Mesozoic faunas, but somewhat rare in the Jehol Biota, where the Family Blattulidae are the most abundant Cockroaches.

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