Fossil Friday: Insects Part 6

Here we are at the final chapter of Jurassic Insects! Today I’ll be exploring crickets, grasshoppers, and lacewings. Grasshoppers did not appear as we know them today until the Jurassic (though there are plenty of grasshopper-ish things, as usual), but Crickets and Lacewings are known from the Permian. In both of these groups there are many families I have not included here, because if I did we’d be sitting on another post for each of them! So after a brief look down below, I encourage you to take a look at the resources and see the amazing variety of crickets and lacewings that survive to the modern day.

Fossil relatives of crickets are known from the late Carboniferous Period, but True Crickets as we know them today appeared during the Triassic. Fossils suggest that even these early crickets (and their relatives) could chirp with their wings or legs, and so these ancient environments had the charm of the insects’ songs.
A cousin of the cricket that appeared during the Permian, this family was once a hugely diverse group. Many fossil specimens preserve wings, but most known today have wings much too small for flight. It is common practice for the females to eat the wings of their male partners.
Also known as Bush Crickets, these insects are part of the suborder Ensifira, which includes True Crickets, Katydids, Grigs, and Weta- all of which are ancient groups. Katydids are known to arrive during the Jurassic period, and scientists can learn a lot about the hearing of ancient insects (and what the dinosaur’s world would’ve sounded like) by studying their fossilized legs. Why? Because their ears are on their knees, and in fossils it looks like the eye of a needle!

Grasshoppers are related to crickets, but not did appear as we know them today until the Jurassic Period. The earliest Grasshopper-ish insect appeared in the early Triassic, and they are the first herbivorous (plant-eating) insects with special chewing mouth parts. When the adults group together in large swarms, they are called locusts. They would’ve been an important food source for flying pterosaurs and small dinosaurs, and may have caused famine in certain areas and seasons.
Lacewings and their cousins are an extremely diverse group that appeared during the Permian. We are familiar with their modern, green, lacy appearance, but in the Jurassic their shapes were especially diverse! Take this one for example, Oregramma illecebrosa, a Jurassic species of Lacewing from a group known as the “butterflies of the Jurassic.” Unlike others in the Lacewing family, these insects looked and behaved very much like modern butterflies, feeding on pollen and plant juices before flowers arrived in the Cretaceous.
Mantisflies are another unusual cousin in the Lacewing family. They first appeared during the Jurassic Period, and like most of their relatives are avid predators of other insects- a quality plants, humans, and dinosaurs can all appreciate. They are not related to Praying Mantis at all (which are actually related to cockroaches!), and their similar appearance is known as convergent evolution, which is when completely unrelated animals develop similar adaptations like wings or fins. In this case, the “praying mantis arms.”

Resources:

Any sort of list for prehistoric insects was mostly unhelpful. Research for this page mostly involved painstaking unwinding of threads from modern groups, then tracing back on which ones are the oldest and most “primitive” groups. Sometimes Wikipedia had a handy little chart on the upper right-hand corner to say when in time a group of insects appeared, but mostly I went down names of groups one by one to see if there were any fossils from that group, or modern species that look nearly identical to their fossil ancestors.

Once I crawled into the rabbit hole I just had to keep going, even when I realized I’d bitten into quite a bit more than I could chew. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!

I am eternally grateful that Wikipedia is such a great resource. From the sheer numbers of insects I discovered I’m afraid I did not have the time to cross reference with other resources, but feel free to look into the many resources Wikipedia lists at the bottom of each article if you want to find out more!

“List of Prehistoric Insects.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_prehistoric_insects#Jurassic

“Insect.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lepidoptera#Evolution_and_systematics

“Dicodylia.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dicondylia

“Orthoptera.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orthoptera

“Ensifera.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ensifera

“Cricket (insect).” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cricket_(insect)

“Prophalangopsidae.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prophalangopsidae

“Tettigoniidae.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tettigoniidae

“Grasshopper.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grasshopper

“Neuroptera.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroptera

“Mantispidae.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mantispidae

“Kalligrammatidae.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalligrammatidae

Lewis, D. (2016, February 4). Jurassic-era insect looks just like a modern butterfly: Jurassic “butterflies” helped pollinate ancient plants millions of years before the butterfly even existed. Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/jurassic-era-insect-looks-just-modern-butterflies-180958040/

4 thoughts on “Fossil Friday: Insects Part 6

  1. So cool to see all the diversity in this group! The lacewings and mantisflies are so pretty. πŸ˜€ Wow, I had no idea katydids had ears on their knees! Where are bug ears usually located?

    Like

    1. Thank you Brownie, I’m glad you like it! I think most insects have ears on their “knees”, but honestly I know nothing about insect anatomy except for what makes them different from other things often mistaken for insects, like spiders lol. Oh, and the fact that most taste with their feet. πŸ˜›

      I just happened to come across the katydid and cricket ears in a few articles during my research. I love how there is a whole group of people who study prehistoric insect ears. πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

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