The fossilized insect is tiny and its genital capsule, called a pygophore, is roughly the length of a grain of rice. It is remarkable, scientists say, because the bug’s physical characteristics – from the bold banding pattern on its legs to the internal features of its genitalia – are clearly visible and well-preserved. Recovered from the Green River Formation in present-day Colorado, the fossil represents a new genus and species of predatory insects known as assassin bugs.
The find is reported in the journal Papers in Palaeontology.
Discovered in 2006 by breaking open a slab of rock, the fossilized bug split almost perfectly from head to abdomen. The fracture also cracked the pygophore in two. A fossil dealer later sold each half to a different collector, and the researchers tracked them down and reunited them for this study.
“Being able to see a bug’s genitalia is very helpful when trying to determine a fossil insect’s place in its family tree,” said Sam Heads, a paleontologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey who led the research with Daniel Swanson, a graduate student in entomology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology and paleontology curator Sam Heads described a new genus and species of fossil grasshopper of the extinct family Elcanidae, from the Cretaceous of China. Check out those leaf-like metatibial spurs! View the paper’s abstract here.
INHS researchers Chris Dietrich and Michael Jared Thomas have described two new extinct fossil leafhoppers—Eoidiocerus emarginatus and Archipedionis obscurus—embedded in 37–44 million-year-old Baltic amber. Both fossils are part of the PRI Paleontology Collection. Read the full paper here: https://zookeys.pensoft.net/articles.php?id=21976
Check out this new paper by Vladimir Makarkin, Sonja Wedmann, and PRI Paleontology Collection curator Sam Heads: A systematic reappraisal of Araripeneuridae (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontoidea), with description of new species from the Lower Cretaceous Crato Formation of Brazil: http://ow.ly/iQvP30ikJ2M.
Today we bring you a newly described species of lacewing: Parababinskaia elegans gen. et sp. nov. from the late Aptian Crato Formation of Brazil. The holotype specimen—housed in the INHS Paleontology Collection—was described by Vladimir Makarkin, Sam Heads (INHS), and Sonja Wedmann in a recent issue of the journal Cretaceous Research.
Our team collected many interesting new fossils during fieldwork in Montana last month. Here team member Susan McIntyre poses with a beautifully preserved spittlebug wing she discovered at one of the excavation sites in the Oligocene Renova Formation.
Spittlebugs (also called froghoppers) are insects of the superfamily Cercopoidea (order Hemiptera). They feed by sucking juices from plants through their straw-like mouthparts and are capable of jumping impressive distances. Their common name comes from their habit of surrounding themselves in protective froth as nymphs.
INHS orthopterist and paleontologist Sam Heads was co-author on a recently published study determining the evolutionary relationships of the grasshoppers, katydids, and crickets. The current study is based on genetics rather than morphological characteristics.
INHS Paleontologist Sam Heads, Jared Thomas, and Yinan Wang found a new pygmy locust embedded in amber. In a paper released today, the species was described and named Electrotettix attenboroughi, in honor of Sir David Attenborough. Attenborough narrated a video about their research. To find out more, read this article by the U of I News Bureau.
Following the discovery of fossil stick insects by a team of Chinese and French scientists, INHS Paleontologist Sam Heads and Illinois State Entomologist Chris Dietrich were contacted by National Geographic to comment. Heads told National Geographic that the discovery of fossilized plant mimicking insects, “is yet more tantalizing evidence of early insect-plant coevolution.”
INHS Paleontologist Sam Heads found an ancient fig wasp that pre-dates any known fig trees. According to Heads, “This is a tiny parasitic wasp, it’s the smallest fossil wasp found in this particular deposit and it’s the oldest representative of its family. More importantly, it’s possible that this wasp was fig-associated, which is interesting because it’s Early Cretaceous, about 115 to 120 million years old. That’s a good 65 million years or so prior to the first occurrence of figs in the fossil record.”