• The earliest known brood care in insects found in Daohugou biota
    Parental care refers to the protection, care and feeding of eggs or offspring by parents, is considered as a significant behavioural adaptation in life-history traits. It has evolved independently multiple times in animals, e.g. mammals, birds, dinosaurs and arthropods, especially various lineages of social insects.
      Parental care refers to the protection, care and feeding of eggs or offspring by parents, is considered as a significant behavioural adaptation in life-history traits. It has evolved independently multiple times in animals, e.g. mammals, birds, dinosaurs and arthropods, especially various lineages of social insects.
      Brood care is a form of uniparental care where parents carry eggs or juveniles after oviposition and provide protection, enhancing offspring fitness and survival. However, very few fossil insects directly document such an ephemeral behaviour. Among Mesozoic insects, the only two direct fossil cases of brooding ethology are from the Early Cretaceous Jehol biota and mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber.
      In recent years, a research group led by Prof. HUANG Diying of Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (NIGPAS) systematically studied the water boatman Karataviella popovi, a representative insect from the Middle–Late Jurassic Daohugou biota of northeastern China. Of the 157 examined K. popovi fossils, 30 adult females were preserved with a cluster of eggs anchored on their left mesotibia. Various analytical technologies and methods have been used in this study, and a comprehensive analysis of functional morphology revealed the unique egg carrying behaviour of the Jurassic water boatman.
      The discovery represents the earliest direct evidence of brood care among insects, indicating that relevant adaptations associated with maternal investment of insects can be traced back to at least the Middle Jurassic, pushing back by approximately 40 million years. The relevant results were published online in Proceedings of the Royal Society B on July 13th.
      The true water bug superfamily Corixoidea, commonly known as the water boatman, is a common aquatic Hemipteran insect, occurs in various freshwater ecosystems worldwide. Extant water boatmen commonly deposit eggs on various subaquatic substances such as leaves or stems of aquatic vegetation, stones, and even on snail shells, carapaces of terrapins, and the exoskeletons of crayfish. The Jurassic water boatman K. popovi from the Daohugou biota bears a relatively large body, with its body length ranging from 11–15 mm.
      The specialized protarsi of K. popovi, combined with the five patches of setae on the head forming a trawl-like feeding apparatus, reflecting the highly specialized predatory behavior. The anostracan and the water boatman K. popovi represent the precursors and dominators in the same layer of the Daohugou beds, and they show high consistency with their emergence, radiation, prosperity, decline and extinction. After analysis of more than 700 anostracan eggs, we hypothesize that the abundant seasonally produced anostracan eggs in the Daohugou biota probably are the food source of K. popovi.
      The egg clusters of K. popovi are compact, and arranged in approximately 5–6 staggered rows, attached to and throughout the left mesotibia of adult females by short egg stalks. As inferred from the arrangement of the eggs, each row seems to have 6–7 eggs. The diameters of egg (without stalk) range from 1.14 to 1.20 mm.
      This study hypothesize that due to the potential high predation risk caused by abundant salamanders in the Daohugou biota and seasonal food resources, K. popovi may have been exposed to fierce ecological pressure in the Daohugou biota. The brooding behaviour developed in K. popovi probably reflected adaptations to habitat or an evolutionary response to the ancient lake ecosystem changes. The brooding behaviour of K. popovi most likely provided effective protection for eggs, largely avoiding the risks of predation, desiccation and hypoxia, which had important effects for its evolution, development and reproductive success. However, this selfless behaviour of K. popovi incurred high ecological costs, which causes an increased risk of predation.
      To our knowledge, carrying a cluster of eggs on a leg is a unique strategy among insects, but is not unusual in aquatic arthropods, in which this carrying behaviour even can be traced back to the early Cambrian Chengjiang biota.
      The water boatman K. popovi could be viewed as a plesiomorphic relic. Our discovery highlights the existence of diverse brooding strategies in Mesozoic insects, which are helpful for understanding the evolution and adaptive significance of brood care in insects.
      This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the International Postdoctoral Exchange Fellowship Program. FANG Yan and LI Yan-da provided for technical support, and SUN Jie prepared the reconstructive illustration.
      Figure 1. The morphological characters of Karataviella popovi.
      Figure 2. Brooding in Karataviella popovi.
      Figure 3. The specialized filter-capture apparatus in Karataviella popovi.
      Figure 4. Ecological reconstruction of Karataviella popovi.
      Contact:  
      LIU Yun, Propagandist
      Email: yunliu@nigpas.ac.cn 
      Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences 
      Nanjing, Jiangsu 210008, China 
    2022-07-29
  • Comprehensive progress has been made on the Late Cretaceouspollen group of Triprojectacites
    Triprojectacites is an extinct fossil pollen group characterized by three projections at the equator, which mainly thrived during the Late Cretaceous. The Northern Hemisphere palynofloras during the Late Cretaceous can be divided into a Normapolles province and an Aquilapollenites province, the latter of which is represented by the existence of Triprojectacites.
      Triprojectacites is an extinct fossil pollen group characterized by three projections at the equator, which mainly thrived during the Late Cretaceous. The Northern Hemisphere palynofloras during the Late Cretaceous can be divided into a Normapolles province and an Aquilapollenites province, the latter of which is represented by the existence of Triprojectacites. Northeast China constitutes an important part of the Aquilapollenites Provincein yielding abundant fossils of this special pollen group. This pollen group is of great significance in the study of stratigraphic division and correlation of the Upper Cretaceous, palaeoecology and palaeoclimate during that timefor its unique morphology, high diversity, short distribution, and rapid evolution.
      However, due to the complexity in morphology, it is hard to be correctly observed, described and measured, resultingin a mess of its systematic classification and identification, which then has seriously hindered its scientific applications.
      Recently, WU, Yixiao, a Ph.D. candidate in Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (NIGPAS), with her supervisor, Prof. LI, Jianguo, and others, carried out a detailed research on the morphology, systematics, geological distribution, and evolution of Triprojectacites based on the material froma scientific drilling well, SK-1, in the Songliao Basin. A series of results has been approached and published in international journals Grana and Cretaceous Research.
      The SK-1 well in the Songliao Basin is ideal for the study of Triprojectacites for its highly detailed research, particularly the high-precision chronological framework. A total of 101 samples have been checked from the well to observe pollen morphology under optical, scanning electron, and transmission electron microscopes using single-grain technology. The morphological features of Triprojectacites have been clarified, including its shape, polarity, aperture, ornamentation and wall structure. A standardized morphological terminology and measuring method have been proposed. Finally, eight genera were screened out from the thirty-nine genera that have been proposed in relation with Triprojectacites.
      A classification system at generic level of Triprojectacitesis established. The composition and distribution of generaand species of Triprojectacites was investigated through the SK-1 well, exhibiting a five-phase evolution of Triprojectacites in the Songliao Basin as occurrence, radiation, steady development, climax, and extinction. During its evolution, Triprojectacites tend to be larger in size, more robust and complicated in ornamentation, and bearingaccessory structures.
      These research advances have laid a solid foundation for the research andapplication of Triprojectacites in species classification and evolution, and will promote its use in the study of global division and correlationof terrestrial Cretaceous strata, palaeoecology, and palaeogeography as well.
      These studies were jointly supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.
      Rereference:
      Wu, Y., Li, J., 2022. Genus classification of Triprojectacites Mtchedlishvili, 1961 emend. Stanley 1970. Grana, 61(3): 161–181. https://doi.org/10.1080/00173134.2022.2050804.
      Wu, Y., Li, J., Lin, M., & Koppelhus, E., 2022. Triprojectacites in the Songliao Basin, Northeast China: Systematics, biostratigraphy and evolution. Cretaceous Research, 135: 105193. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cretres.2022.105193.
      Figure 1 SEM, TEM images of major ornamentationtypes in Triprojectacites
      Figure 2 Genera and species diversity of Triprojectacites in the Songliao Basin
      Figure 3 Evolution of each genera and species of Triprojectacites in the Songliao Basin
       
      Contact:
      LIU Yun, Propagandist
      Email: yunliu@nigpas.ac.cn
      Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
      Nanjing, Jiangsu 210008, China
    2022-07-15
  • A new Early Ordovician Lagerst?tte reveals the early stage of the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event
    The reconstructed complex ecosystem based on the present Liexi fauna provides new evidence for the significant biotic turnover from Cambrian to the Palaeozoic evolutionary faunas, by showing a mixture of Cambrian relics, and the Ordovician new arrivals.
      In the 1980s, the famous palaeontologist Prof. Sepkoski proposed the diversity curve of the marine animal, recognized three evolutionary faunas, and proposed the concept of Ordovician radiation. From the beginning of the Ordovician, marine life started its great radiation, as manifested by the rapid appearance of new orders, families, and genera, together with the replacement of existing groups. The Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event (GOBE) constructed the essential framework of the Palaeozoic Evolutionary Fauna, while the Cambrian faunas dominated by the arthropods were replaced by the Palaeozoic faunas represented by the filter feeders and reef-forming organisms.
      GOBE was primitively studied and defined with the skeletonized taxa, rather than the non-mineralized taxa. The exceptionally preserved Lagerstatten have been assessed as reflecting the living community, providing new evidence to know the Ordovician marine world. However, only several Ordovician Lagerst?tten have been discovered before, especially in the Early Ordovician. Recently, a new Lagerstatte, Liexi fauna, was reported by the research team from Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (NIGPAS), Hunan Museum and Central South University, from the Lower Ordovician of Yongshun country, Hunan Province. This work has been published online in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
      The Liexi fauna has been discovered from the Madaoyu Formation of Lower Ordovician near the Liexi village, Yongshun county, Hunan Province. The conodont and graptolite assemblages indicate an age of mid-Florian, Early Ordovician, which is slightly younger than the Fezouata biota from Morocco and the Afon Gam biota from Welsh. Most of the documented fossiliferous Early Ordovician Lagerstatten globally are interpreted to occur in high latitude regions, such as the Fezouata biota near the South Pole, and the Afon Gam biota from North Wales at a palaeolatitude of 60°S. During the Early Ordovician, South China was thought to be a typical tropical palaeogeographical setting. In contrast to some other Ordovician Lagerstatten preserved in restricted or anoxic environments, the depositional environment of the Liexi fauna is interpreted to be offshore to the lower shoreface, following the palaeogeographic setting.
      The Liexi fauna includes up to 11 phyla of marine animals. The fauna is characterized by abundant, diverse biomineralized fossils along with the exceptional preservation of some non-mineralized tissues and groups. In addition to rich palaeoscolecidans and diverse trilobites (including the digestive tract preservation), the fauna also contains graptolites, extraordinarily complete echinoderms, exceptionally-preserved sponges, possible Ottoia, machaeridian polychaetes, and other rare biomineralized specimens, signalling a flourishing Early Ordovician marine fauna. A biologically complex and complete marine ecosystem with diverse organisms and varied lifestyles is proposed here, including endobenthic, sessile benthic, mobile benthic, nektonic, and planktic taxa.
      Any discoveries of Early Ordovician Lagerstatten are of significant concern for the research on the Cambrian to Ordovician faunal transition. The Liexi fauna is suggested as the age of middle Floian, probably preceding the GOBE’s primary interval of diversification by ~5–10 Myr. The reconstructed complex ecosystem based on the present Liexi fauna provides new evidence for the significant biotic turnover from Cambrian to the Palaeozoic evolutionary faunas, by showing a mixture of Cambrian relics, and the Ordovician new arrivals.
      This research is supported by CAS Strategic Priority Research Program (B) and National Nature Science Foundation of China.
      Reference: Fang, X., Mao, Y.Y., Liu, Q., Yuan, W.W., Chen, Z.Y., Wu, R.C., Li, L.X., Zhang, Y.C., Ma, J.Y., Wang, W.H., Zhan, R.B., Peng, S.C., Zhang, Y.D., Huang, D.Y.*, 2022. The Liexi fauna: a new Lagerstatte from the Lower Ordovician of South China. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 289: 20221027. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2022.1027.
       
      Fossils from the Liexi fauna
       
      Palaeoscolecidan worms from the Liexi fauna
       
      Ecological reconstruction of the Liexi fauna (Drawn by J. Sun)
       
      Contact:
      LIU Yun, Propagandist
      Email: yunliu@nigpas.ac.cn
      Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
      Nanjing, Jiangsu 210008, China
    2022-07-14
  • Study reveals yunnanozoans as the oldest known stem vertebrates. Findings answer questions in the fossil record
    A research team has now conducted a study of yunnanozoans, extinct creatures from the early Cambrian period (518 million years ago), and discovered evidence that they are the oldest known stem vertebrates. The term stem vertebrate refers to those vertebrates that are extinct, but very closely related to living vertebrates.
      Scientists have long puzzled over the gap in the fossil record that would explain the evolution of invertebrates to vertebrates. Vertebrates, including fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, and humans, share unique features, such as a backbone and a skull. Invertebrates are animals without backbones. The process that moved invertebrates toward becoming vertebrates — and what those earliest vertebrates looked like — has been a mystery to scientists for centuries. A research team has now conducted a study of yunnanozoans, extinct creatures from the early Cambrian period (518 million years ago), and discovered evidence that they are the oldest known stem vertebrates. The term stem vertebrate refers to those vertebrates that are extinct, but very closely related to living vertebrates.
      The research team, from Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Nanjing University, published their findings in the journal Science on July 8, 2022.
      Across the years, as scientists have studied how vertebrates evolved, a key focus of research has been the pharyngeal arches, those structures that produce parts of the face and neck, such as the muscles, bone, and connective tissue. Researchers have hypothesized that the pharyngeal arch evolved from an unjointed cartilage rod in vertebrate ancestors, such as the chordate amphioxus, a close invertebrate relative of the vertebrates. But whether such anatomy actually existed in the ancient ancestors has not been known for certain.
      In an effort to better understand the role of the pharyngeal arch in ancient vertebrates, the research team studied the fossils of the soft-bodied yunnanozoans found in the Yunnan Province, China. For years, researchers have studied the yunnanozoans, with differing conclusions on how to interpret the creature’s anatomy. The affinity of yunnanozoans has been debated for around three decades, with multiple papers published supporting varying opinions, including four in Nature and Science.
      The research team set out to examine newly collected yunnanozoan fossil specimens in previously unexplored ways, conducting a high-resolution anatomical and ultrastructural study. The 127 specimens they studied have well-preserved carbonaceous residues that allowed the team to conduct ultrastructural observations and detailed geochemical analyses.
      The team applied X-ray microtomography, scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, Raman spectrometry, Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, and energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy on the fossil specimens. Their study confirmed in multiple ways that yunnanozoans have cellular cartilages in the pharynx, a feature considered specific to vertebrates. The team’s findings support that yunnanozoans are stem vertebrates. The results of their study show that the yunnanozoans are the earliest and also the most primitive relatives of crown-group vertebrates.
      During their study, the team observed that all of the seven pharyngeal arches in the yunnanozoan fossils are similar to each other. The all arches have bamboo-like segments and filaments. Neighboring arches are all connected by dorsal and ventral horizontal rods, forming a basket. A basket-like pharyngeal skeleton is a feature found today in living jawless fishes, such as lampreys and hagfishes.
      "Two types of pharyngeal skeletons—the basket-like and isolated types—occur in the Cambrian and living vertebrates. This implies that the form of pharyngeal skeletons has a more complex early evolutionary history than previously thought," said Qingyi Tian, the first author of the study, from Nanjing University and Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
      Their research provided the team with new insights into the detailed structures of the pharyngeal arches. The new anatomical observations the team achieved in their study, support the evolutionary placement of yunnanozoans at the very basal part of the vertebrate tree of life.
      The research team includes Qingyi Tian from Nanjing University (NJU) and Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (NIGPAS); Fangchen Zhao and Han Zeng from NIGPAS; Maoyan Zhu from NIGPAS and the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences; and Baoyu Jiang from NJU.
      The Strategic Priority Research Program (B) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation of China funded this research.
      Reference: Qingyi Tian, Fangchen Zhao*, Han Zeng, Maoyan Zhu, Baoyu Jiang*, 2022. Ultrastructure reveals ancestral vertebrate pharyngeal skeleton in yunnanozoans. Science, 377(6602), https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abm2708.
       
      Caption: Artistic reconstruction of the yunnanozoan from the Cambrian Chengjiang biota shows basket-like pharyngeal skeletons (Drawn by Dinghua Yang).
      Credit: Fangchen Zhao, NIGPAS
       
      Caption: The stem vertebrate yunnanozoan.
      Credit: Fangchen Zhao, NIGPAS
       
      Contact:
      LIU Yun, Propagandist
      Email: yunliu@nigpas.ac.cn
      Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
      Nanjing, Jiangsu 210008, China
    2022-07-08
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