Chinese scientists identify prehistoric species

Updated: 2013-02-21 22:49


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NANJING - Chinese scientists have announced that they have identified an enigmatic prehistoric insect, with a research paper published by academic journal "Nature" on Feb 21.

The paper was written by Huang Diying, a researcher with the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and his group.

The well-known book "Evolution of the Insects" states that Strashila, an extinct insect dating back to the Mesozoic era, is one of the most puzzling insect species known to paleontologists.

The insect was first reported in 1992 by a Russian palaeontologist. Some scientists believe that it greatly differs from all known insects and cannot be placed in any insect orders, while others have even suggested establishing a new order to accommodate it. Still others have theorized that the insect is an ectoparasite, or an animal that lives on the exterior of another organism.

However, 13 new specimens of Strashila found in Ningcheng county in North China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region have allowed Huang and his group to more closely examine the insect and offer their own interpretation as to how it should be classified.

Huang and his team said that the abdomens of the new female specimens resemble those of normal wingless flies and lack the features of an ectoparasite abdomen.

In addition, the new male specimens have large and broad forewings, a feature that is not found on ectoparasites, Huang said.

Based on detailed studies, Huang said Strashila is likely a member of Diptera, an order of insects that includes normal house flies and mosquitoes.