Mysterious 'Frankenstein-like' fossils provide fresh clues to evolution of insects
'Frankenstein' insects dating back 120 million years have been discovered among fossils from Brazil.
The monster bugs had the wings and body of a dragonfly, wing veins like those of a mayfly and a praying mantis's forelegs.
'It is a very strange mix of characteristics that are otherwise only known for the unrelated insect groups,' one of the researchers to discover this new group of insects told livescience.com.
Coxoplectoptera: Each larva had a body shape that is taller than wide, resembling that of a freshwater shrimp. With its claws it caught its food
From two adult and about 30 larval fossils in collections around the world, the researchers created a new order of species called Coxoplectoptera.
But this newly named group of insects from the Cretaceous Period has no modern descendants. Their closest living relatives are mayflies.
Bechly and entomologist Arnold Staniczek knew they had found something special when they came across one of the fossil insects in the Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart while working on a book on the Crato fossil deposit in Brazil from which it came.
And Bechly said that the Crato site has produced tens of thousands of well-preserved fossils during a crucial period for insect evolution
Cretaceous: The wings resembled those of a mayfly, but unlike its modern relative the adult did eat
Each larva is taller than it is wide, resembling a freshwater shrimp. Based on their shape and forelimbs, they are believed to have half buried themselves in mud under water and ambushed smaller insect prey.
Coxoplectoptera had forelegs for catching and gripping, as well as mouthparts capable of eating which modern mayflies do not have, he said.
The researchers also found clues to the origin of wings. They are believed to have come from the insect back plates; however, these insects' wings appear to have developed from legs.
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