New fossil Lepidoptera (Insecta: Amphiesmenoptera) from the Middle Jurassic Jiulongshan Formation of Northeastern China

PLoS One. 2013 Nov 22;8(11):e79500. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0079500. eCollection 2013.


Background: The early history of the Lepidoptera is poorly known, a feature attributable to an inadequate preservational potential and an exceptionally low occurrence of moth fossils in relevant mid-Mesozoic deposits. In this study, we examine a particularly rich assemblage of morphologically basal moths that contribute significantly toward the understanding of early lepidopteran biodiversity.

Methodology/principal findings: Our documentation of early fossil moths involved light- and scanning electron microscopic examination of specimens, supported by various illumination and specimen contrast techniques. A total of 20 moths were collected from the late Middle Jurassic Jiulongshan Formation in Northeastern China. Our principal results were the recognition and description of seven new genera and seven new species assigned to the Eolepidopterigidae; one new genus with four new species assigned to the Mesokristenseniidae; three new genera with three new species assigned to the Ascololepidopterigidae fam. nov.; and one specimen unassigned to family. Lepidopteran assignment of these taxa is supported by apomorphies of extant lineages, including the M1 vein, after separation from the M2 vein, subtending an angle greater than 60 degrees that is sharply angulate at the junction with the r-m crossvein (variable in Trichoptera); presence of a foretibial epiphysis; the forewing M vein often bearing three branches; and the presence of piliform scales along wing veins.

Conclusions/significance: The diversity of these late Middle Jurassic lepidopterans supports a conclusion that the Lepidoptera-Trichoptera divergence occurred by the Early Jurassic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • China
  • Fossils*
  • Lepidoptera / anatomy & histology*
  • Lepidoptera / classification
  • Wings, Animal / anatomy & histology

Grant support

This research was supported by the National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program) (grant 2012CB821906), National Natural Science Foundation of China (grants 31172143, 31230065, 31272352 and 41272006), Project of Great Wall Scholar and KEY project of Beijing Municipal Commission of Education (grants KZ201310028033), and the China Geological Survey (grant 1212011120115). Support for JCS was provided by the United States National Science Foundation’s Assembling the Tree of Life program, award 0531769, and the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.