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Haug, Joachim T. and Haug, Carolin (2021): A 100 million-year-old armoured caterpillar supports the early diversification of moths and butterflies. In: Gondwana Research, Vol. 93: pp. 101-105

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The lepidopteran caterpillar is a ubiquitous type of larva with a significant impact on the modern ecosystem. Quite on the contrary, the fossil record of caterpillars is quite scarce, with four occurrences in Cretaceous ambers representing the oldest ones. Here we report a new specimen from 100 million-year-old Cretaceous Myanmar amber. The caterpillar has appendages on abdomen segments 3-6 and 10. Such an arrangement is today only known in caterpillars of the group Gracillariidae. These caterpillars are usually dorso-ventrally flattened, adapted for leaf mining. The fossil specimen does not appear flattened and is additionally armoured with spines dorsally on the trunk segments. All other known Cretaceous larvae are naked, lacking dorsal armature. The new specimen hence increases the diversity of Cretaceous caterpillars. This finding is congruent with recent phylogenetic reconstructions and hence supports an early diversification of the group Lepidoptera. (c) 2021 International Association for Gondwana Research. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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