+1 Recommend
0 collections
      • Record: found
      • Abstract: found
      • Article: found
      Is Open Access

      Fossils in Myanmar amber demonstrate the diversity of anti-predator strategies of Cretaceous holometabolan insect larvae


      Read this article at

          There is no author summary for this article yet. Authors can add summaries to their articles on ScienceOpen to make them more accessible to a non-specialist audience.


          Holometabolan larvae are a major part of the animal biomass and an important food source for many animals. Many larvae evolved anti-predator strategies and some of these can even be recognized in fossils. A Lagerstätte known for well-preserved holometabolan larvae is the approximately 100-million-year-old Kachin amber from Myanmar. Fossils can not only allow to identify structural defensive specializations, but also lifestyle and even behavioral aspects. We review here the different defensive strategies employed by various holometabolan larvae found in Kachin amber, also reporting new cases of a leaf-mining hymenopteran caterpillar and a hangingfly caterpillar with extensive spines. This overview demonstrates that already 100 million years ago many modern strategies had already evolved in multiple lineages, but also reveals some cases of now extinct strategies. The repetitive independent evolution of similar strategies in distantly related lineages indicates that several strategies evolved convergently as a result of similar selective pressures.

          Graphical abstract


          • Review of different defensive strategies of holometabolan larvae in Kachin amber

          • New cases including hymenopteran and hangingfly caterpillars were found

          • Modern and now extinct strategies were present in Cretaceous in multiple lineages

          • Strategies may have evolved convergently as result of similar selective pressures


          Entomology; Evolutionary biology; Paleobiology

          Related collections

          Most cited references187

          • Record: found
          • Abstract: not found
          • Article: not found

          Mimicry and Deception in Pollination

          A Dafni (1984)
            • Record: found
            • Abstract: not found
            • Article: not found

            A Classificatory Review of Mimicry Systems

            G Pasteur (1982)
              • Record: found
              • Abstract: found
              • Article: not found

              The earliest known holometabolous insects.

              The Eumetabola (Endopterygota (also known as Holometabola) plus Paraneoptera) have the highest number of species of any clade, and greatly contribute to animal species biodiversity. The palaeoecological circumstances that favoured their emergence and success remain an intriguing question. Recent molecular phylogenetic analyses have suggested a wide range of dates for the initial appearance of the Holometabola, from the Middle Devonian epoch (391 million years (Myr) ago) to the Late Pennsylvanian epoch (311 Myr ago), and Hemiptera (310 Myr ago). Palaeoenvironments greatly changed over these periods, with global cooling and increasing complexity of green forests. The Pennsylvanian-period crown-eumetabolan fossil record remains notably incomplete, particularly as several fossils have been erroneously considered to be stem Holometabola (Supplementary Information); the earliest definitive beetles are from the start of the Permian period. The emergence of the hymenopterids, sister group to other Holometabola, is dated between 350 and 309 Myr ago, incongruent with their current earliest record (Middle Triassic epoch). Here we describe five fossils--a Gzhelian-age stem coleopterid, a holometabolous larva of uncertain ordinal affinity, a stem hymenopterid, and early Hemiptera and Psocodea, all from the Moscovian age--and reveal a notable penecontemporaneous breadth of early eumetabolan insects. These discoveries are more congruent with current hypotheses of clade divergence. Eumetabola experienced episodes of diversification during the Bashkirian-Moscovian and the Kasimovian-Gzhelian ages. This cladogenetic activity is perhaps related to notable episodes of drying resulting from glaciations, leading to the eventual demise in Euramerica of coal-swamp ecosystems, evidenced by floral turnover during this interval. These ancient species were of very small size, living in the shadow of Palaeozoic-era 'giant' insects. Although these discoveries reveal unexpected Pennsylvanian eumetabolan diversity, the lineage radiated more successfully only after the mass extinctions at the end of the Permian period, giving rise to the familiar crown groups of their respective clades.

                Author and article information

                03 December 2023
                19 January 2024
                03 December 2023
                : 27
                : 1
                : 108621
                [1 ]Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU Munich), Biocenter, Großhaderner Str. 2, 82152 Planegg-Martinsried, Germany
                [2 ]GeoBio-Center at LMU, Richard-Wagner-Str. 10, 80333 München, Germany
                [3 ]Kreuzbergstr. 90, 66482 Zweibrücken, Germany
                [4 ]University of Greifswald, Zoological Institute and Museum, Cytology and Evolutionary Biology, Soldmannstr. 23, 17489 Greifswald, Germany
                [5 ]University Medical Center Rostock, Medical Biology and Electron Microscopy Center, Strempelstr. 14, 18057 Rostock, Germany
                Author notes
                []Corresponding author marie.hoernig@ 123456med.uni-rostock.de

                Lead contact

                S2589-0042(23)02698-6 108621
                © 2023 The Authors

                This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

                : 23 June 2023
                : 14 September 2023
                : 30 November 2023

                entomology,evolutionary biology,paleobiology
                entomology, evolutionary biology, paleobiology


                Comment on this article