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Detailed description of the new genus and speceis, Cretophengodes azari Li, Kundrata, Tihelka and Cai sp. nov.

Citation

Li, Yan-Da et al. (2020), Detailed description of the new genus and speceis, Cretophengodes azari Li, Kundrata, Tihelka and Cai sp. nov., Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.cfxpnvx43

Abstract

Bioluminescent beetles of the superfamily Elateroidea (fireflies, fire beetles, glow-worms) are the most speciose group of terrestrial light-producing animals. The evolution of bioluminescence in elateroids is associated with unusual morphological modifications, such as soft-bodiedness and neoteny, but the fragmentary nature of the fossil record discloses little about the origin of these adaptations. We report the discovery of a new bioluminescent elateroid beetle family from the mid-Cretaceous of northern Myanmar (ca. 99 Ma), Cretophengodidae fam. nov. Cretophengodes azari gen. et sp. nov. belongs to the bioluminescent lampyroid clade, and represents a transitional fossil linking the soft-bodied Phengodidae + Rhagophthalmidae clade and hard-bodied elateroids. The fossil male possesses a light organ on the abdomen which presumably served a defensive function, documenting a Cretaceous radiation of bioluminescent beetles coinciding with the diversification of major insectivore groups such as frogs and stem-group birds. The discovery adds a key branch to the elateroid tree of life and sheds light on the timing of the evolution of soft-bodiedness and historical biogeography of elateroid beetles.

Methods

The Burmese amber specimen studied here originates from amber mines near the Noije Bum Hill (26°20' N, 96°36' E), Hukawng Valley, Kachin State, northern Myanmar. The specimen is deposited in the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology (NIGP), Chinese Academy of Sciences, Nanjing, China. The amber piece was trimmed with a small table saw, ground with emery papers of different grain sizes, and finally polished with polishing powder. 

Photographs under incident light were taken with a Zeiss Discovery V20 stereo microscope. Widefield fluorescence images were captured with a Zeiss Axio Imager 2 light microscope combined with a fluorescence imaging system. Confocal images were obtained with a Zeiss LSM710 confocal laser scanning microscope. Images under incident light and widefield fluorescence were stacked in Helicon Focus 7.0.2 or Zerene Stacker 1.04. Confocal images were manually stacked in Adobe Photoshop CC. Images were further processed in Adobe Photoshop CC to enhance contrast. 

Funding

Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Award: XDB26000000

National Natural Science Foundation of China, Award: 41672011

Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Award: XDB26000000