The reconstruction of ancient insect ectoparasitism is challenging, mostly because of the extreme scarcity of fossils with obvious ectoparasitic features such as sucking-piercing mouthparts and specialized attachment organs. Here we describe a bizarre fly larva (Diptera), Qiyia jurassica gen. et sp. nov., from the Jurassic of China, that represents a stem group of the tabanomorph family Athericidae. Q. jurassica exhibits adaptations to an aquatic habitat. More importantly, it preserves an unusual combination of features including a thoracic sucker with six radial ridges, unique in insects, piercing-sucking mouthparts for fluid feeding, and crocheted ventral prolegs with upward directed bristles for anchoring and movement while submerged. We demonstrate that Q. jurassica was an aquatic ectoparasitic insect, probably feeding on the blood of salamanders. The finding reveals an extreme morphological specialization of fly larvae, and broadens our understanding of the diversity of ectoparasitism in Mesozoic insects.
Jun Chen, Bo Wang, Michael S Engel, Torsten Wappler, Edmund A Jarzembowski, Haichun Zhang, Xiaoli Wang, Xiaoting Zheng, Jes Rust. "Extreme adaptations for aquatic ectoparasitism in a Jurassic fly larva."
eLife. 2014; 3: e02844. Published online 2014 June 24. http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.02844