New insect order found
Two cricket-like creatures establish new insect group.
Probably the remnants of what was once a larger and more widespread group.
Long lost relative of the stick insect.
The first new order of insects to be discovered for more than 80 years has emerged from the mountains of Namibia. The orders first official members are two creatures about 2 cm long that look a bit like a cross between a cricket and a stick insect1.
The group, called Mantophasmatodea, joins the other 30 or so insect orders such as beetles, flies and termites. "If it was in mammals itd be like discovering bats," says Dick Vane-Wright, head of entomology at Londons Natural History Museum.
Klaus Klass, of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and his colleagues unearthed specimens languishing unidentified in museums, found fossils preserved in amber, and discovered living insects on a trip to Namibia. Now the team has published a description of two species. Three or four more await description, says Klass.
The living Mantophasmatodea dwell in grass on a mountaintop. They seem to be predators - their stomachs contained remains of other insects.
The fossil Mantophasmatodea are 40-50 million years old, some come from Europe. This implies that the African insects are the remnants of what was once a larger and more widespread group.
Vane-Wright compares the insects to the Coelacanth, the living fossil fish recently rediscovered in the Indian Ocean. "Mantophasmatodea might be a major group on the verge of extinction, or it might just have been overlooked," he says.
An order is one of the higher categories used to group species - we of the species homo sapiens belong to the order primates, for example. Biologists define such categories by identifying sets of characteristics shared by a group of species but not found in any other group.
The Mantophasmatodeas relation to other insects is uncertain. Klass and his colleagues suspect that they are closest to the stick insects and a small group called the Grylloblattodea, found on mountaintops in North America and Asia. Grylloblattodea was the last new order discovered, in 1914.
Sequencing the insects DNA might clarify their place in the tree of life. Evolutionary biologist Michael Whiting, of Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, is doing this at the moment. But we shouldnt expect cut-and-dried answers, he says.
"Weve known about the other orders for centuries, and we still havent worked out their relationships," Whiting says. "This is one more piece of a large and complex puzzle: its exciting to have the piece, but its not going to provide the answer by itself."
- Klass, K.-D., Zompro, O., Kristensen, N.P. & Adis, J. Mantophasmatodea: a new insect order with extant members in the Afrotropics. Science Published online(2002).
JOHN WHITFIELD | © Nature News Service
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...