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Supposed dinosaur/pterosaur parasites are aquatic flies

From: Ben Creisler

A new online paper:

Diying Huang,  André Nel,  Chenyang Cai,  Qibin Lin &  Michael S. Engel (2013)
Amphibious flies and paedomorphism in the Jurassic period.
Nature (advance online publication)

The species of the Strashilidae (strashilids) have been the most
perplexing of fossil insects from the Jurassic period of Russia and
China. They have been widely considered to be ectoparasites of
pterosaurs or feathered dinosaurs, based on the putative presence of
piercing and sucking mouthparts and hind tibio-basitarsal pincers
purportedly used to fix onto the host’s hairs or feathers6. Both the
supposed host and parasite occur in the Daohugou beds from the Middle
Jurassic epoch of China (approximately 165 million years ago). Here we
analyse the morphology of strashilids from the Daohugou beds, and
reach markedly different conclusions; namely that strashilids are
highly specialized flies (Diptera) bearing large membranous wings,
with substantial sexual dimorphism of the hind legs and abdominal
extensions. The idea that they belong to an extinct order2 is
unsupported, and the lineage can be placed within the true flies. In
terms of major morphological and inferred behavioural features,
strashilids resemble the recent (extant) and relict members of the
aquatic fly family Nymphomyiidae. Their ontogeny are distinguished by
the persistence in adult males of larval abdominal respiratory gills,
representing a unique case of paedomorphism among endopterygote
insects. Adult strashilids were probably aquatic or amphibious,
shedding their wings after emergence and mating in the water.


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