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.

Continue reading

Fossil Friday: Insects Part 5

Next week will be the last part in this series of Jurassic insects. I really did try to fit all the rest of them in this post, but when I saw how many different families were in with grasshoppers, crickets, and lacewings, I had to have a post just for them. So if you can bear with me for just a bit longer with all these bugs, we’ll explore a few true bugs and other insects crawling into the kitchen sink for this round.

Continue reading

Fossil Friday: Insects Part 2

Some people know enough about prehistoric life to know that flowers and grass did not appear until the Cretaceous period, near the end of the dinosaur’s reign here on Earth. So surely butterflies, bees, and all those kinds of insects didn’t show up at least until about the same time as flowers right? Wrong!

When tracing back through the many insect groups (boy did I open up a can of worms there!) I was surprised to discover that there were members of the butterfly and wasp groups already around during the Jurassic period, long before any flowers grew.

Technically the groups are called Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) and Hymenoptera (wasps, bees, and ants), and the critters flying around weren’t exactly like the butterflies we see fluttering from flower to flower or the wasps buzzing around an angry nest in the tree, but…they’re still relatives, and what on earth are they doing when there are no flowers around?

Continue reading

Fossil Friday: Insects Part 1

Insects and their fellow creepy crawlies have been around for a long, long, looong time. Long before dinosaurs ever showed up on stage. A common misconception is that creepy crawlies in prehistoric times were limited to just dragonflies, millipedes, and perhaps spiders, and they were all giant. I’m thinking about a certain eagle-size dragonfly and six-foot long millipede in particular. But there was only one period of history that insects and their other arthropod relatives (like spiders) were truly giant- the Carboniferous period. The Permian Period- the Age of Amphibians- is the span of time between the Carboniferous and Triassic period. The Triassic Period, of course, is when the first dinosaurs came on the scene.

The reason for the giant size of creepy-crawlies during the Carboniferous, and no other period, where the high levels of oxygen from the boom in forest and tree growth around the world. By the time the Jurassic Period rolls around, oxygen levels are a bit more like they are today, and bugs are about as big as they get today. The “bugs” in this series are only a tiny fraction of the diversity there was during the Jurassic. They are delicate creatures and do not fossilize easily, so who knows how many there really were? Most of these still have surviving species today that look very similar to how they looked so many years ago, and they provide a tiny glimpse to the many strange and wonderful insects that flew in the air and crawled in the leaf litter during the Jurassic.

Continue reading

Fossil Friday: Eopneumatosuchus

Species: Eopneumatosuchus colberti (Ee-noo-ma-toh-soo-kus kol-brr-tye)

What it means: Pneumatic passage crocodile

Other species: None

Where I live: Arizona in the U.S.A.- The Kayenta formation

When to find me: The Early Jurassic period, about 196 million years ago.

My favorite food: I like fish the best! I’m a pisciivore.

My neighborhood: The Kayenta formation used to be a tropical floodplain, a bit like African savannah today- but no grass or flowers. Ferns cover the open plains, dotted with islands of spiky cycad groves. Rivers crisscross the land with lush tree ferns, ginkgo trees, and conifers. Every year during the wet season the plains turn into a flooded marsh, but the hottest months bring no rain, and the rivers shrink until the plains are almost as dry as the great desert that lies to the north.

A few of my neighbors: I’m surrounded by big and scary dinosaurs like Dilophosaurus, Coelophysis, and Kayentavenator, so I stay out of their way. Sarahsaurus (an early sauropod) and Scelidosaurus (armored dinosaur) are plant eaters, but also pretty tough neighbors. Little Scutellosaurus (small armored dinosaur) is quite a bit more friendly, and if I’m lucky might even join me for lunch. Mostly I hang close to the river with the frogs, turtles, or fellow crocodile cousins. I’ll often see a long-tailed pterosaur flying overhead for insects like beetles, dragonflies, an ancient cousin of the moth, and something called a snakefly.

Fun Facts:

  • I look a bit like a crocodile, but I’m not! You might say we’re distant cousins.
  • Even though there are very few fossils, paleontologists still try to make a good guess at who my closest relatives are. At first they thought I was related to a crocodile-ish critter called Protosuchus. But the latest theory is that I’m from a family called Teleosaurs. They’re crocodile-ish critters that look a lot like the modern gharial (think croc, but with a super skinny and long snout), and they specialized in living out on the ocean. Some of them look a bit like crocs trying to play shark.
  • My name basically describes the bones that the paleontologists found. Eo (Latin for passage/ “to move along” + pneumaticus (latin for “operated with air pressure”). Describing the part of the skull that was found. The tympanic synuses in a crocodilian are at the very back of the head, almost where the neck connects. Suchus is from the Greek souchos, which is Greek for crocodile, and is pretty common in the names of croc-ish things.

Fossil Finds: A few fragmentary fossils from the back of the skull.

References:

Lucas, Spencer & Heckert, Andrew & Tanner, Lawrence. (2005). ARIZONA’S JURASSIC FOSSIL VERTEBRATES AND THE AGE OF THE GLEN CANYON GROUP. New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. 29. 94-103.

Gay, Robert & Milner, Andrew. (2015). The first report of an archosaur from the Kayenta Formation of Washington County, Utah. 10.7287/PEERJ.PREPRINTS.848V1.

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