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      Amphibious flies and paedomorphism in the Jurassic period

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      Nature
      Springer Science and Business Media LLC

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          Abstract

          The species of the Strashilidae (strashilids) have been the most perplexing of fossil insects from the Jurassic period of Russia and China. They have been widely considered to be ectoparasites of pterosaurs or feathered dinosaurs, based on the putative presence of piercing and sucking mouthparts and hind tibio-basitarsal pincers purportedly used to fix onto the host's hairs or feathers. Both the supposed host and parasite occur in the Daohugou beds from the Middle Jurassic epoch of China (approximately 165 million years ago). Here we analyse the morphology of strashilids from the Daohugou beds, and reach markedly different conclusions; namely that strashilids are highly specialized flies (Diptera) bearing large membranous wings, with substantial sexual dimorphism of the hind legs and abdominal extensions. The idea that they belong to an extinct order is unsupported, and the lineage can be placed within the true flies. In terms of major morphological and inferred behavioural features, strashilids resemble the recent (extant) and relict members of the aquatic fly family Nymphomyiidae. Their ontogeny are distinguished by the persistence in adult males of larval abdominal respiratory gills, representing a unique case of paedomorphism among endopterygote insects. Adult strashilids were probably aquatic or amphibious, shedding their wings after emergence and mating in the water.

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          Most cited references15

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          A bizarre Jurassic maniraptoran from China with elongate ribbon-like feathers.

          Recent coelurosaurian discoveries have greatly enriched our knowledge of the transition from dinosaurs to birds, but all reported taxa close to this transition are from relatively well known coelurosaurian groups. Here we report a new basal avialan, Epidexipteryx hui gen. et sp. nov., from the Middle to Late Jurassic of Inner Mongolia, China. This new species is characterized by an unexpected combination of characters seen in several different theropod groups, particularly the Oviraptorosauria. Phylogenetic analysis shows it to be the sister taxon to Epidendrosaurus, forming a new clade at the base of Avialae. Epidexipteryx also possesses two pairs of elongate ribbon-like tail feathers, and its limbs lack contour feathers for flight. This finding shows that a member of the avialan lineage experimented with integumentary ornamentation as early as the Middle to Late Jurassic, and provides further evidence relating to this aspect of the transition from non-avian theropods to birds.
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            A nearly completely articulated rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur with exceptionally well-preserved wing membranes and ?hairs? from Inner Mongolia, northeast China

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              Mid-Mesozoic flea-like ectoparasites of feathered or haired vertebrates.

              Parasite-host associations among insects and mammals or birds are well attended by neontological studies [1]. An Eocene bird louse compression fossil [2, 3] and several flea specimens from Eocene and Oligocene ambers [4-8], reported to date, are exceptionally similar to living louse and flea taxa. But the origin, morphology, and early evolution of parasites and their associations with hosts are poorly known [9, 10] due to sparse records of putative ectoparasites with uncertain classification in the Mesozoic, most lacking mouthpart information and other critical details of the head morphology [11-15]. Here we present two primitive flea-like species assigned to the Pseudopulicidae Gao, Shih et Ren familia nova (fam. nov.), Pseudopulex jurassicus Gao, Shih et Ren genus novum et species nova (gen. et sp. nov) from the Middle Jurassic [16] and P. magnus Gao, Shih et Ren sp. nov. from the Early Cretaceous in China [17]. They exhibit many features of ectoparasitic insects. Large body size and long serrated stylets for piercing tough and thick skin or hides of hosts suggest that these primitive ectoparasites might have lived on and sucked the blood of relatively large hosts, such as contemporaneous feathered dinosaurs and/or pterosaurs or medium-sized mammals (found in the Early Cretaceous, but not the Middle Jurassic). Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                0028-0836
                1476-4687
                March 2013
                February 20 2013
                March 2013
                : 495
                : 7439
                : 94-97
                Article
                10.1038/nature11898
                23426262
                04664bdf-20b3-4418-8d99-56a0daea16c6
                © 2013

                http://www.springer.com/tdm

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