|Strigocis opacicollis (Ciidae), photographed by Tom Murray|
|Meganeura monyi, a famous crow-sized Carboniferous griffinfly|
|Reconstruction of Kalligramma haeckeli; antennae inaccurately long (Makarkin & Menon, 2007)|
|Psychopsis mimica, photographed by Graeme V.|
|Photograph of Chasmoptera huttii (Nemopteridae) by Fred Hort|
But I digress from the purpose of this post—that of giving kalligrammatids a common name. As it so happens, these fluttering lacewings of the mid-Mesozoic Era deserved the epithet "butterflies of the Jurassic" for more reason than their appearance (butterflies would not appear until the Cenozoic Era): they (and the related Aetheogrammatidae; Yang et al., 2012) were, like their modern simulacra, solely nectar-feeders, as can be readily seen by the elongated form of their mouth-parts (Engel, 2005). Since kalligrammatids were superficially like butterflies—but not the real thing—I would propose calling them "margarineflies".
The fact that the so-called margarineflies were clear nectarivores is interesting, given that the flowering plants (Angiospermae) do not appear in the fossil record until 10 million years after these lacewings' evident extinction (Qiang et al., 2004). But, just as butterflies converged with their margarinefly antecedents, so some groups of plants that were not strictly "flowering" evolved reproductive organs of the same phenotype as flowers: namely, the Bennettitales (Speer, 2000), a taxon whose members disingenuously resemble cycads to such a degree that they are called cycadeoids. ("Bennettitaleans" is the taxonomically correct name for these plants, but "cycadeoid" is much easier to pronounce.) Cycadeoids were an integral part of our planet's flora for much of the Mesozoic Era, with the mass extinction that killed off the dinosaurs dealing the cycadeoids a hard blow: thereafter they lingered on only in Tasmania until the cooling of climate that came at the Paleogene Period's end (McLoughlin et al., 2011).
|Illustration of an arborescent cycadeoid; blossoms were located on the trunk|
Notice that I say "some": margarineflies were part of an entire ecological guild of pollinators that predated the great angiosperm radiation, a guild that was interdependent with the Bennettitales, Gnetophyta, and some Cycadophyta. Certain mid-Cretaceous gingkos were also entomophilous, being pollinated by thrips; this is in contrast to modern ginkgos, which are exclusively anemophilous‡ ( The margarineflies' compatriots in non-ginkgo gymosperm pollination were the extinct fly families Rhagionemestriidae and Archisargidae, as well as an entire suborder of scorpionflies (Aneuretopsychina). Tellingly, all of these taxa disappeared in the Early Cretaceous concurrently with the turnover from domination by gymnosperms to a floral regime of angiosperms (Labandeira, 2010): they were utter specialists.
For ecologists, the co-radiation of pollinating insects and angiosperms is the archetype of co-evolution—but it was not anything new under the sun: other plants (and other insects) had already managed something very like to it.
*The continent comprised of Australia, Tasmania, New Guinea, and adjacent islands.
†Not descended from a common ancestor that was itself a member of the group.
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