An endoparasitoid Cretaceous fly and the evolution of parasitoidism
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Parasitoidism is a key innovation in insect evolution, and parasitoid insects, nowadays, play a significant role in structuring ecological communities. Despite their diversity and ecological impact, little is known about the early evolution and ecology of parasitoid insects, especially parasitoid true flies (Diptera). Here, we describe a bizarre fly, Zhenia xiai gen. et sp. nov., from Late Cretaceous Burmese amber (about 99 million years old) that represents the latest occurrence of the family Eremochaetidae. Z. xiai is an endoparasitoid insect as evidenced by a highly developed, hypodermic-like ovipositor formed by abdominal tergites VIII + IX that was used for injecting eggs into hosts and enlarged tridactylous claws supposedly for clasping hosts. Our results suggest that eremochaetids are among the earliest definite records of parasitoid insects. Our findings reveal an unexpected morphological specialization of flies and broaden our understanding of the evolution and diversity of ancient parasitoid insects.
KeywordsInsecta Diptera Parasitoidism Cretaceous Burmese amber
We are grateful to Prof. E.A. Jarzembowski for improving the English language of the manuscript and Mr. D.H. Yang for the reconstruction drawing. This research was supported by the National Basic Research Program of China (2012CB821900), National Natural Science Foundation of China (41572010, J1210006), and Youth Innovation Promotion Association of CAS (No. 2011224).
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