The Palaeodictyoptera are an extinct order of medium-sized to very large, primitive Palaeozoic paleopterous insects.
|Illustration of Stenodictya lobata, Gerarus longicollis, Dieconeura arcuata and Eubleptus danielsi|
They were characterised by beak-like mouthparts, and similarity, between their fore- and hind wings, and an additional pair of winglets (large paranotal lobes) on the prothorax, in front of the first pair of wings. Although the paranota are technically not wings, the Palaeodictyoptera are whimsically called "six-winged insects". The actual wings are often boldly marked, the colour patterns evident even in fossils.
The mouthparts were elongated, and included sharp piercing stylets, and possibly a sucking pump-like organ. Unlike modern sucking insects, such as the Hemipterans, the mouthparts were held vertically below the head, or projected forwards. They probably used these organs to suck juices from plants, although some may have been ectoparasites, or predators.
Some types attained huge size. For example, Mazothairos had a wingspan of about 55 centimetres (22 in). Another distinctive feature was the presence of unusually long cerci, about twice the length of the abdomen.
The Palaeodictyoptera are a paraphyletic assemblage of basal palaeodictyopteroidean insects, rather than a clade, because they gave rise to other insect orders. They range in time from the Middle Carboniferous (late Serpukhovian or early Bashkirian in age) to the late Permian.
Amphiesmenoptera is an insect superorder, established by S. G. Kiriakoff, but often credited to Willi Hennig in his revision of insect taxonomy for two sister orders: Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) and Trichoptera (caddisflies). In 2017, a third fossil order was added to the group, the Tarachoptera.Trichoptera and Lepidoptera share a number of derived characters (synapomorphies) which demonstrate their common descent:
Females, rather than males, are heterogametic (i.e. their sex chromosomes differ).
Dense setae are present in the wings (modified into scales in Lepidoptera).
There is a particular venation pattern on the forewings (the double-looped anal veins).
Larvae have mouth structures and glands to make and manipulate silk.Thus these two extant orders are sisters, with Tarachoptera basal to both groups. Amphiesmenoptera probably evolved in the Jurassic. Lepidoptera differ from the Trichoptera in several features, including wing venation, form of the scales on the wings, loss of the cerci, loss of an ocellus, and changes to the legs.Amphiesmenoptera are thought to be the sister group of Antliophora, a proposed superorder comprising Diptera (flies), Siphonaptera (fleas) and Mecoptera (scorpionflies). Together, Amphiesmenoptera and Antliophora compose the group Mecopterida.Archedictyon
Archedictyon (from Greek Arche meaning first, original, ancient, primitive, or most basic and dictyo- meaning net or netlike, plural "archedictya") is a name given to a hypothetical scheme of wing venation proposed for the common ancestor of all winged insects.Archodonata
Archodonata is an extinct order of palaeozoic paleopterous insects, sometimes included in Odonata.Diaphanopterodea
The Diaphanopterodea or Paramegasecoptera are an extinct order of moderate to large-sized Palaeozoic insects. They are first known from the Middle Carboniferous (late Serpukhovian or early Bashkirian in age), and include some of the earliest known flying insects.Dicondylia
The Dicondylia are a taxonomic group (taxon) that includes all insects except the jumping bristletails (Archaeognatha). Dicondylia have a mandible attached with two hinges to the head capsule (dicondyl), in contrast to the original mandible with a single ball joint (monocondyl).Dictyoptera
Dictyoptera (from Greek δίκτυον diktyon "net" and πτερόν pteron "wing") is an insect superorder that includes two extant orders of polyneopterous insects: the order Blattodea (termites and cockroaches together) and the order Mantodea (mantises), along with one extinct order, the Alienoptera. While all modern Dictyoptera have short ovipositors, the oldest fossils of Dictyoptera have long ovipositors, much like members of the Orthoptera.Endopterygota
Endopterygota (from Ancient Greek endon “inner” + pterón, “wing” + New Latin -ota “having”), also known as Holometabola, is a superorder of insects within the infraclass Neoptera that go through distinctive larval, pupal, and adult stages. They undergo a radical metamorphosis, with the larval and adult stages differing considerably in their structure and behaviour. This is called holometabolism, or complete metamorphism.
The Endopterygota are among the most diverse insect superorders, with over 1 million living species divided between 11 orders, containing insects such as butterflies, flies, fleas, bees, ants, and beetles.They are distinguished from the Exopterygota (or Hemipterodea) by the way in which their wings develop. Endopterygota (meaning literally "internal winged forms") develop wings inside the body and undergo an elaborate metamorphosis involving a pupal stage. Exopterygota ("external winged forms") develop wings on the outside their bodies and do not go through a pupal stage. The latter trait is plesiomorphic, however, and not exclusively found in the exopterygotes, but also in groups such as Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies), which are not Neoptera, but more basal among insects.
The earliest endopterygote fossils date from the Carboniferous.Eumetabola
Eumetabola is an unranked category of Neoptera. Two large unities known as the Paurometabola and Eumetabola are probably from the adelphotaxa of the Neoptera after exclusion of the Plecoptera. The monophyly of these unities appears to be weakly justified.Myrmeleontoidea
Myrmeleontoidea is a lacewing superfamily in the suborder Myrmeleontiformia.Neoptera
Neoptera is a classification group that includes most orders of the winged insects, specifically those that can flex their wings over their abdomens. This is in contrast with the more basal orders of winged insects (the "Palaeoptera" assemblage), which are unable to flex their wings in this way.Odonatoptera
The Odonatoptera are a superorder (sometimes treated as an order) of ancient winged insects, placed in the Palaeoptera which probably form a paraphyletic group however. The dragonflies and damselflies are the only living members of this group, which was far more diverse in the late Paleozoic and contained gigantic species, including the griffinflies (colloquially called "giant dragonflies", although they were not dragonflies in the strict sense) of the order Protodonata. This lineage dates back at least to the Bashkirian, not quite 320 million years ago.Palaeoptera
The name Palaeoptera has been traditionally applied to those ancestral groups of winged insects (most of them extinct) that lacked the ability to fold the wings back over the abdomen as characterizes the Neoptera. The Diaphanopterodea, which are palaeopteran insects, had independently and uniquely evolved a different wing-folding mechanism. Both mayflies and dragonflies lack any of the smell centers in their brain found in Neoptera.Panorpida
Panorpida or Mecopterida is a proposed superorder of Endopterygota. The conjectured monophyly of the Panorpida is historically based on morphological evidence, namely the reduction or loss of the ovipositor and several internal characteristics, including a muscle connecting a pleuron and the first axillary sclerite at the base of the wing, various features of the larval maxilla and labium, and basal fusion of CuP and A1 veins in the hind wings. The monophyly of the Panorpida is also supported by recent molecular data.Paraneoptera
Paraneoptera is a monophyletic superorder of insects which includes four orders, the bark lice, true lice, thrips, and hemipterans, the true bugs. The mouthparts of the Paraneoptera reflect diverse feeding habits. Basal groups are microbial surface feeders, whereas more advanced groups feed on plant or animal fluids.Protodiptera
Protodiptera is an extinct order of insects containing the two genera Permotipula and Permila.Psocodea
Psocodea is a taxonomic group of insects comprising the bark lice, book lice and true lice. It was formerly considered a superorder, but is now generally considered by entomologists as an order. Despite the greatly differing appearance of lice, they are believed to have evolved from within the former order "Psocoptera", which contained the bark lice and book lice. Psocodea contains around 11,000 species, divided among seven suborders.Pterygota
The Pterygota are a subclass of insects that includes the winged insects. It also includes insect orders that are secondarily wingless (that is, insect groups whose ancestors once had wings but that have lost them as a result of subsequent evolution).The pterygotan group comprises almost all insects. The insect orders not included are the Archaeognatha (jumping bristletails) and the Zygentoma (silverfishes and firebrats), two primitively wingless insect orders. Also not included are the three orders no longer considered to be insects: Protura, Collembola, and Diplura.Spilapteroidea
Spilapteroidea is an extinct superfamily of palaeodictyopterans.Writhlington SSSI
Writhlington SSSI (grid reference ST703553) is a 0.5 hectare geological Site of Special Scientific Interest near the town of Radstock, Bath and North East Somerset, notified in 1992.
This is the site of old mine workings on the Somerset coalfield, including 3,000 tons of Upper Carboniferous spoil from which more than 1,400 insect fossil specimens have been recovered, including the world's earliest known Damselfly. It is a Geological Conservation Review Site, because it has yielded the largest ever collection of Carboniferous insects in Britain. The commonest forms belong to the order Blattodea (cockroaches) and include the extinct families Archimylacris and Mymarommatidae. Protorthoptera and Palaeodictyoptera also occur. Frequent chelicerates (arthropods) include trace and body fossils of xiphosurid merostomes and arachnids, including Phalangiotarbi and Trigonotarbida and also true spiders (Araneida). Rare myriapods (millipedes) and occasional conchostracan crustaceans (clam-shrimps) also occur.