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.
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."
JOHN WHITFIELD | © Nature News Service
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