A fossilized true bug preserved in Burmese amber dates back approximately 100 million years (mid-Cretaceous period), according to Oregon State University Professor George Poinar, Jr. and his colleagues.
Palaeotanyrhina exophthalma lived in the mid-Cretaceous forests of what is now Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).
The amber specimen originated from the Noije Bum 2001 Summit Site mine excavated in the Hukawng Valley and located southwest of Maingkhwan in the Kachin State of Myanmar.
Palaeotanyrhina exophthalma was a member of the order Hemiptera, i.e. the ‘true bugs.’
“More than 80,000 species including cicadas, aphids, planthoppers, leafhoppers, bed bugs and shield bugs comprise this order,” Professor Poinar said.
“True bugs’ size varies widely, from as small as 1 mm to as large as 15 cm, but they all have a similar arrangement of sucking mouthparts.”
Palaeotanyrhina exophthalma was just 7 mm in length, had bulging eyes, an elongated mouth, and feet that oozed resin.
“It is a small predator that used its protruding eyes to locate insect prey,” Professor Poinar said.
“Its eyes provided a clear, 360-degree view of its habitat so it could see prey that might appear from any side.”
“The other strange feature on this fossil is an extended sheath on the final leg segment of the front tarsus.”
“That sheath was filled with a resinous substance. The sticky substance was produced by dermal glands and helped the insect grasp potential prey.”
Palaeotanyrhina exophthalma shares some features with members of the superfamily Reduvoidea, which includes the assassin bug and the kissing bug, but its long labium (lower mouth), its head shape and its forewing veins disqualify it from placement in any modern Reduvoidea family.
According to the authors, the new species is so different that it needed to be placed in its own, now extinct family: Palaeotanyrhinidae.
“To determine its placement, a phylogenetic analysis was performed which concluded that this new aberrant true bug should be assigned to Reduvioidea, and since its characters are unique in terms of the superfamily, a new family, Palaeotanyrhinidae, should be erected to accommodate it,” they said.
“The observation of traces suspected to be an adhesive substance combined with the presence of fossula spongiosa suggest that Palaeotanyrhina exophthalma was a predator feeding on smaller arthropods.”
The team’s paper was published in the journal Palaeodiversity.
George Poinar Jr. et al. 2022. Palaeotanyrhina exophthalma gen. et sp. nov. (Palaeotanyrhinidae fam. nov.) (Reduvioidea: Hemiptera) in mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber. Palaeodiversity 15 (1): 73-82; doi: 10.18476/pale.v15.a5
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