A Rewrite of the History of Beetles

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Fossil Mix-Up Could Rewrite the History of Beetles, the Largest Group of Animals on Earth

by Joshua Rapp Learn Smithsonian.com

The most diverse family of animals on the planet just got a little bit younger due to a possible mix-up in the fossil record.

Rove beetles have more than 60,000 living species. The beetles are spread all over the world and have adapted to a great number of ecological niches. The only problem is that Leehermania prorova—the presumed oldest known member of the species—may not be a rove beetle at all.

“It’s not related to that group of beetles at all but related to a smaller group of beetles,” says Martin Fikáček, a collection curator and researcher in the insect department at the Czech National Museum in Prague and a co-author of a study about the beetle published today in Systematic Entomology.

If Leehermania prorova is not a rove beetle, but rather a beetle related to the Myxophaga suborder as Fikáček and his group believe, it could mean the four beetle suborders we know today are much older than previously believed. Since insects represent the largest animal class (72 percent of all known animal species, according to the Catalogue of Life), and beetles represent about 35 percent of all known insects (and 25 percent of all known animals, with about 400,000 named species)….

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