Just out | Early Evolution of Specialized Termitophily in Cretaceous Rove Beetles @ Current Biology

Just out @ Current Biology

Early Evolution of Specialized Termitophily in Cretaceous Rove Beetles


Chenyang Cai, Diying Huang, Alfred F. Newton, K. Taro Eldredge, Michael S. Engel


Termitophiles, symbionts that live in termite nests, include a wide range of morphologically and behaviorally specialized organisms. Complex adaptive mechanisms permit these animals to integrate into societies and to exploit their controlled physical conditions and plentiful resources, as well as to garner protection inside termite nests. An understanding of the early evolution of termitophily is challenging owing to a scarcity of fossil termitophiles, with all known reliable records occurring from the Miocene (approximately 19 million years ago [mya]) [ 1–6 ], and an equivocal termitophile belonging to the largely free-living Mesoporini from the mid-Cretaceous [ 7 ]. Here we report the oldest, morphologically specialized, and obligate termitophiles from mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber (99 mya). Cretotrichopsenius burmiticus gen. et sp. nov. belongs to Trichopseniini, a group of distinctive termitophilousaleocharine rove beetles, all of which possess specialized swollen or horseshoe-crab-shaped body plans. Cretotrichopsenius display the protective horseshoe-crab-shaped body form typical of many modern termitophiles, with concealed head and antennae and strong posteriorly directed abdominal setae. Cretotrichopsenius represent the earliest definitive termitophiles, shedding light on host associations in the early evolution of termite societies. The fossil reveals that ancient termite societies were quickly invaded by beetles and by multiple independent lineages of social parasites over the subsequent eons.


Staphylinidae, Aleocharinae, Trichopseniini, termitophily, termites, social parasitism, Burmese amber



Lurdes Fonseca

Assistant Professor and Researcher at University of Lisbon
Sociologist (PhD), Paleontologist (Researcher in Micropaleontology), Majors in Sociology and Biology, Minor in Geology. Main interests in Paleontology: Microfossils, Molecular fossils, Paleobiology and Paleoecology. (read more about me)