Dienstag, 10. Mai 2011

Triassic cicadomorph insects with camouflage

Shcherbakov, D. 2011. New and little-known families of Hemiptera Cicadomorpha from the Triassic of Central Asia – early analogs of treehoppers and planthoppers. Zootaxa 2836: 1-26. [article preview with abstract]

Dmitry Shcherbakov describes twelve new (monotypic) genera and species of cicadomorphs from the Madygen Formation on the basis of some exquisitely preserved fossils and redescribes three others.

He finds homoplastic similarities of the fossil families Saaloscytinidae and Maguviopseidae (newly erected) to leaf hoppers and tree hoppers (Membracoidea) and of Mesojabloniidae to plant hoppers (Fulgoroidea)

Convergent to the extant groups of cicadomorphs the newly described fossil taxa use different means of camouflage, namely bizarrely-shaped tegmina (singular 'tegmen' = anterior cover wings without aerodynamic function), dorsal projections on the thorax and tegmen, well-developed surface sculpture, and (dull) coloration. According to Shcherbakov the specific morphology of the Maguviopseidae and Saaloscytinidae mimicked thorns, bracts, seed-bearing organs, seeds, buds, or leaves, whereas the Mesojabloniidae mimicked rotten wood or bark.

Shcherbakov assumes that predation by tree-living reptiles, such as Sharovipteryx and Longisquama (which are known from the same locality within the Madygen Formation), was an important factor underlying the evolution of elaborate types of camouflage.

As none of these Triassic hoppers appear to have survived for long, Shcherbakov concludes that their extinction was linked to the extinction of the host plants whose plant organs they imitated.