Geometrid caterpillar in Eocene Baltic amber (Lepidoptera, Geometridae)
Lepidoptera have little fossilization potential due to the presence of delicate structures and hence are exceptional findings, even in ambers that allow their preservation in sufficient detail for interpretation. From Eocene Baltic amber, the volumetrically largest known deposit of amber, there has been no reliable report of any member of the Macrolepidoptera (informal group of higher moths and all butterflies). Any such lepidopteran fossil would provide insight into evolutionary processes during the Eocene, long after flowering plants had completed their initial radiation. Here, we report on a first geometrid caterpillar from Baltic amber which is described as the oldest evidence for the subfamily Ennominae (tribe Boarmiini) and as one of the oldest records of the currently mega-diverse family. The new finding provides an important calibration point for molecular clock analyses within the family Geometridae and predates the basal divergence of Boarmiini from 32-38 to 44 Mya. It also predates the occurrence of this highly specialized form of caterpillar locomotion that allows for rapid movement.
- Pub Date:
- November 2019