Mittwoch, 15. Oktober 2008

Triassic critters: Titanopterans

Among the most remarkable fossil insects from Madygen are the titanopterans which can reach wing spans of 50 cm. The Titanoptera form a subgroup of the Neoptera and were usually regarded as having an order rank when the Linnean taxonomic system is applied.

Recently, there was a revision done by Olivier Béthoux, who is currently working as a Humboldt research fellow at the geological institute of my alma mater (actually he is my "bureau mate"):

Béthoux (2007): Cladotypic taxonomy applied: Titanopterans are Orthopterans. - Arthropod Systematics & Phylogeny 65(2): 135- 156.

Recent orthopterans include grasshoppers and crickets. Olivier Béthoux shows on the basis of wing venation topology that members of a Permian "family" of Orthoptera - the Tcholmanvissiidae - are the closest relatives of the Triassic group Titanoptera. Such a relationship was also proposed by Madygen researcher A. G. Sharov as early as 1968 but later doubted by others.

The 'Titanopterida' are newly defined as a subgroup of the 'Tcholmantitanopterida' which are in turn a subgroup of Tcholmanvissiidae:

"Species that evolved from the (segments of) metapopulation lineage in which the character state ‘in forewing, CuPaα• + CuPaβ and CuPb having the same point of origin’, as exhibited by giganteus Tillyard, 1916 and vulgaris Sharov, 1968, has been acquired." (see page 145)

The cryptic formulas refer to higher order branches of the posterior Cubitus (CuP), a main wing veine.

Olivier's paper is interesting for another reason: As announced in the title he uses the relationship of titanopterans as an example for applying his concept of cladotypic taxonomy which on its own may be worth a post here (after I got the point). One part of his idea may be frightening for some biologists - as in the definition above there is no longer a need for binary nomenclature.

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