Gaps and nodes between fossil and extant insects



    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Palaeontology, Institute of Geology, Freiberg University of Mining and Technology, Freiberg, Germany
    • O. Béthoux, Department of Palaeontology, Institute of Geology, Freiberg University of Mining and Technology, Bernhard-von-Cotta Str. 2, D-09596 Freiberg, Germany. E-mail:

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  • Unpublished for the purposes of zoological nomenclature (Art. 8.2, ICZN)


Traditional contributions of the insect fossil record are listed. Fossil material indicates the earliest occurrence of a group, which in turn is useful for inferring clade divergence dates and net diversification rates. Fossil material provides complementary information on the dynamics of taxonomic diversity. Geographical occurrences outside the extant range of a taxon can be used to infer climatic macro-fluctuations. In short, the fossil record of insects is essential for pointing out the major factors responsible for the mega-diversity of the group, and of some of its internal lineages. Reliable taxonomic assignments and phylogenetic hypotheses underpin broader generalizations. In that respect, a problem is the inadequate integration of data from fossil and extant insect taxa in phylogenetic investigations. Stumbling blocks lie at various systematic levels. Unreliability of specimen-based data, of species delimitation, and of homology assumptions, might have been responsible for a disdain by some entomologists for palaeoentomological literature. Idiosyncratic (and in cases flawed) methods aimed at investigating phylogenetic relationships used by a fraction of the palaeoentomological community might also have contributed to this situation. Concurrently, the traditional nomenclatural procedure might prevent effective communication between neo- and palaeoentomologists. Augmenting the available information on the wing venation of extant taxa would significantly advance palaeoentomology, and provide a relevant broad-scale character system. Furthermore, the entomological community should contribute to experimentations of various nomenclatural procedures, with the aim of developing an optimal approach in terms of communication and information retrieval.