Thursday, 6 October 2011

A New Species Of Prehistoric Silky Lacewing Fly

The beautiful holotype fossils of Undulopsychopsis alexi
Many new fossil insects have been discovered recently, such as the dragonfly-like Coxoplectoptera, the primitive harvestman Eupnoi and two new wasps described from North American amber. Now scientists have found a series of silky lacewing fly fossils which turn out to be a completely new species. The lacewings are a rare group of insects that are easy to recognise due to their distinctively broad, dense and hairy wings. They are very colourful with many different forms.

The fossils in question come from the Mesozoic Yixian Formation of the Liaoning Province, China - a productive fossil bed in the country.

The specific specimens, dated to around 120 million years old, were preserved on a bed of creamy, fine grained limestone which saved tiny details such as the membranes and branches within the wings. The creature was given the name Undulopsychopsis alexi by its discoverers, a team of scientists from the Capital Normal University, Beijing, and the Institute for Soil and Earth Sciences, Russia.

'The most important trait of this fossil is that it shares the features of two different families of neuropteran insects, the extant Psychopsidae (known also from the Mesozoic) and the extinct Mesozoic Osmylopsychopidae' said the author Vladimir Makarkin. As the fossils are very recent discoveries, proper studies and conclusions have yet to be drawn but preliminary research does show clearly the unusual features in its wing membranes.