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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

New transitional fossil snakeflies from China illuminate the early evolution of Raphidioptera

Xingyue Liu1*, Dong Ren2* and Ding Yang1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Entomology, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, China

2 College of Life Sciences, Capital Normal University, Beijing 100048, China

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2014, 14:84  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-14-84

Published: 18 April 2014

Abstract

Background

Raphidioptera (snakeflies) is a holometabolous order of the superorder Neuropterida characterized by the narrowly elongate adult prothorax and the long female ovipositor. Mesozoic snakeflies were markedly more diverse than the modern ones are. However, the evolutionary history of Raphidioptera is largely unexplored, as a result of the poorly studied phylogeny among fossil and extant lineages within the order.

Results

In this paper, we report a new snakefly family, Juroraphidiidae fam. nov., based on exquisitely preserved fossils, attributed to a new species Juroraphidia longicollumgen. et sp. nov., from the Jiulongshan Formation (Middle Jurassic) in Inner Mongolia, China. The new family is characterized by an unexpected combination of plesiomorphic and apomorphic characters of Raphidioptera. Based on our phylogenetic analysis, Juroraphidiidae fam. nov. together with Raphidiomorpha form a monophyletic clade, which is the sister to Priscaenigmatomorpha. The snakefly affinity of Priscaenigmatomorpha is confirmed and another new family, Chrysoraphidiidae fam. nov., is erected in this suborder.

Conclusions

Juroraphidiidae fam. nov. is determined to be a transitional lineage between Priscaenigmatomorpha and Raphidiomorpha. Diversification of higher snakefly taxa had occurred by the Early Jurassic, suggesting that these insects had already had a long but undocumented history by this time.

Keywords:
Raphidioptera; Systematics; Fossil; Middle Jurassic; China