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Published February 10, 2016 | Published + Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

The evolutionary convergence of mid-Mesozoic lacewings and Cenozoic butterflies


Mid-Mesozoic kalligrammatid lacewings (Neuroptera) entered the fossil record 165 million years ago (Ma) and disappeared 45 Ma later. Extant papilionoid butterflies (Lepidoptera) probably originated 80–70 Ma, long after kalligrammatids became extinct. Although poor preservation of kalligrammatid fossils previously prevented their detailed morphological and ecological characterization, we examine new, well-preserved, kalligrammatid fossils from Middle Jurassic and Early Cretaceous sites in northeastern China to unravel a surprising array of similar morphological and ecological features in these two, unrelated clades. We used polarized light and epifluorescence photography, SEM imaging, energy dispersive spectrometry and time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry to examine kalligrammatid fossils and their environment. We mapped the evolution of specific traits onto a kalligrammatid phylogeny and discovered that these extinct lacewings convergently evolved wing eyespots that possibly contained melanin, and wing scales, elongate tubular proboscides, similar feeding styles, and seed–plant associations, similar to butterflies. Long-proboscid kalligrammatid lacewings lived in ecosystems with gymnosperm–insect relationships and likely accessed bennettitalean pollination drops and pollen. This system later was replaced by mid-Cretaceous angiosperms and their insect pollinators.

Additional Information

© 2016 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited. Received: 2 December 2015. Accepted: 12 January 2016. Thanks are extended to NMNH staff: Vichai Malikul of Entomology for drawing the reconstruction in figure 4l; Scott Whittaker for oversight of the Imaging SEM Lab; Jim Di Loretto for images of modern Lepidoptera; and Finnegan Marsh who drafted the figures. Oliver Flint and Alexandr Rasnitsyn made specimens available. Doug Erwin and Shaun Winterton provided presubmission reviews; Nipam Patel and David Wagner made pertinent observations. Wenying Wu contributed input at an early stage of this project; Audra Medve and Amy Seager provided assistance. This is contribution 182 of the NMNH Evolution of Terrestrial Ecosystems consortium. This work was supported by the National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program) (grant 2012CB821906), National Science Foundation of China (grant nos. 31230065, 31309105, 31372243, 41272006 and 41372013), Beijing Municipal Commission of Education Project (grant no. 201207120), China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (grant no. 2012T50113), Doctoral Program of Higher Education of China (grant no. 20131108120005), Beijing Natural Science Foundation (grant 5132008), Great Wall Scholar Project of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education (grant no. KZ201310028033), Program for Changjiang Scholars and Innovative Research Teams at University (IRT13081), Natural Science Foundation of Hebei Province (grant no. C2015403012), Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health, Library of Medicine, to C.L.H. and the Deep Carbon Observatory to Y.G. and S.S. S.S. also was supported through the Postdoctoral Fellowship Program of the Geophysical Laboratory, Carnegie Institution of Washington and the Swedish National Space Board (contract 121/11). Author contributions: D.R. and Q.Y. prepared the fossil material. C.C.L. and D.R. designed the research and wrote the paper. Q.Y., Y.-J.W., D.R. provided work on systematics and phylogeny reconstruction. J.A.S.B. and C.C.L. provided wing eyespot and mouthpart analyses; T.R.R. and Y.G. worked on light microscopy, SEM, EDS and related analyses; A.M. provided expertise on interpretation of eyespot and scale data. C.L.H. identified pollen and interpreted their context, C.K.S., C.C.L. and Y.G. worked on systematics and mimicry; Y.G. and S.S. conducted the ToF-SIMS analysis; and D.L.D. and C.C.L. provided macrofloral insights. Data accessibility: Data forming the basis of this research and the details of analyses are available in the electronic supplementary material attached to this article. We declare we have no competing interests.

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