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Haug, Joachim T.; Haug, Carolin; Garwood, Russell J. (2016): Evolution of insect wings and development - new details from Palaeozoic nymphs. In: Biological Reviews, Vol. 91, No. 1: pp. 53-69
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The nymphal stages of Palaeozoic insects differ significantly in morphology from those of their modern counterparts. Morphological details for some previously reported species have recently been called into question. Palaeozoic insect nymphs are important, however - their study could provide key insights into the evolution of wings, and complete metamorphosis. Here we review past work on these topics and juvenile insects in the fossil record, and then present both novel and previously described nymphs, documented using new imaging methods. Our results demonstrate that some Carboniferous nymphs - those of Palaeodictyopteroidea - possessed movable wing pads and appear to have been able to perform simple flapping flight. It remains unclear whether this feature is ancestral for Pterygota or an autapomorphy of Palaeodictyopteroidea. Further characters of nymphal development which were probably in the ground pattern of Pterygota can be reconstructed. Wing development was very gradual (archimetaboly). Wing pads did not protrude from the tergum postero-laterally as in most modern nymphs, but laterally, and had well-developed venation. The modern orientation of wing pads and the delay of wing development into later developmental stages (condensation) appears to have evolved several times independently within Pterygota: in Ephemeroptera, Odonatoptera, Eumetabola, and probably several times within Polyneoptera. Selective pressure appears to have favoured a more pronounced metamorphosis between the last nymphal and adult stage, ultimately reducing exploitation competition between the two. We caution, however, that the results presented herein remain preliminary, and the reconstructed evolutionary scenario contains gaps and uncertainties. Additional comparative data need to be collected. The present study is thus seen as a starting point for this enterprise.