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Haug, Joachim T.; Müller, Patrick; Haug, Carolin (2019): A 100-million-year old predator: a fossil neuropteran larva with unusually elongated mouthparts. In: Zoological Letters, Vol. 5, 29
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Background Biological diversity is a hot topic in current research, especially its observed decrease in modern times. Investigations of past ecosystems offer additional insights to help better understand the processes underlying biodiversity. The Cretaceous period is of special interest in this context, especially with respect to arthropods. During that period, representatives of many modern lineages appeared for the first time, while representatives of more ancient groups also co-occurred. At the same time, side branches of radiating groups with ‘experimental morphologies’ emerged that seemed to go extinct shortly afterwards. However, larval forms, with their morphological diversity, are largely neglected in such studies, but may provide important insights into morphological and ecological diversity and its changes in the past. Results We present here a new fossil insectan larva, a larval lacewing, in Cretaceous amber, exhibiting a rather unusual, ‘experimental’ morphology. The specimen possesses extremely large (in relation to body size) mandibulo-maxillary piercing stylets. Additionally, the labial palps are very long and are subdivided into numerous elements, overall appearing antenniform. In other aspects, the larva resembles many other neuropteran-type larvae. Conclusions We provide a comparison that includes quantitative aspects of different types of neuropteran larvae to emphasise the exceptionality of the new larva, and discuss its possible relationships to known lineages of Neuroptera; possible interpretations are closer relationships to Dilaridae or Osmylidae. In any case, several of the observed characters must have evolved convergently. With this new find, we expand the known morphological diversity of neuropterans in the Cretaceous fauna.