|Alienopterus brachyelytrus |
Bai, Beutel, Klass, Wipfler et Zhang, 2016
• A new insect order, Alienoptera ord. Nov., is described from Burmese amber.
• It displays a bizarre combination of characters occurring in different insect orders.
• †Alienopterus was an evolutionary dead end in the roach-mantis transition zone.
A new insect species (†Alienopterus brachyelytrus Bai, Beutel, Klass, Wipfler et Zhang gen. et sp. nov.) of a new order and family is described, based on a single male embedded in Cretaceous Burmese amber (ca. 99 Ma). Unusual characters are shortened forewings combined with fully developed, operational hindwings, similar as in Dermaptera, and specialized attachment pads otherwise only found in mantophasmatodeans (heelwalkers). A cladistic analysis suggests a placement as sister to Mantodea, supported by a profemoral brush and other characters. The male genitalia show the same pattern in both groups. Specialized features are the unusual flight apparatus, attachment structures adapted for locomotion on leaves, and a dense profemoral setation suitable for catching small prey. †Alienopterus was apparently able to fly and likely a predator of small arthropods in bushes or trees. An impressive radiation of Mantodea started in similar habitats at least 35 Ma later in the early Cenozoic. In contrast, †Alienopterus was an evolutionary dead end in the roach-mantis transition zone.
Keywords: mantis; fossil; amber; Cretaceous; Polyneoptera; Dictyoptera; Mantodea; Alienopterus; raptorial leg
Order †Alienoptera Bai, Beutel, Klass, Wipfler et Zhang ord. Nov.
Family †Alienopteridae Bai, Beutel, Klass, Wipfler et Zhang fam. Nov.
†Alienopterus Bai, Beutel, Klass, Wipfler et Zhang gen. Nov.
Type species: †Alienopterus brachyelytrus Bai, Beutel, Klass, Wipfler et Zhang sp. nov.
Material: Currently only one nearly complete specimen is known (No. BU-001,057). This adult male is designated as the holotype of the new species. The (type) specimen is currently on long-term loan in the Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (IZAS) (specimen available for study by contacting MB or WWZ). From 2026 it will be deposited in the currently established Three Gorges Entomological Museum, Chongqing, China.
Etymology: The genus name “Alienopterus” refers to the unusual (Latin “alienus”) combination of characters including the wings (New Latin “-pterus” = − winged, from Greek “pterón” = wing) of the new species. The species epithet refers to the short (Greek “brachys”) and apparently hardened forewings (“elytron”, as generally used for the hardened forewings of beetles).
Ming Bai, Rolf Georg Beutel, Klaus-Dieter Klass, Weiwei Zhang, Xingke Yang, Benjamin Wipfler 2016. †Alienoptera – A New Insect Order in the Roach - Mantodean Twilight Zone. Gondwana Research. DOI: 10.1016/j.gr.2016.02.002