Patterning of a compound eye on an extinct dipteran wing

April Dinwiddie, Stan Rachootin


We have discovered unexpected similarities between a novel and characteristic wing organ in an extinct biting midge from Baltic amber, Eohelea petrunkevitchi, and the surface of a dipteran's compound eye. Scanning electron microscope images now reveal vestigial mechanoreceptors between the facets of the organ. We interpret Eohelea's wing organ as the blending of these two developmental systems: the formation and patterning of the cuticle in the eye and of the wing.

Typically, only females in the genus carry this distinctive, highly organized structure. Two species were studied (E. petrunkevitchi and E. sinuosa), and the structure differs in form between them. We examine Eohelea's wing structures for modes of fabrication, material properties and biological functions, and the effective ecological environment in which these midges lived. We argue that the current view of the wing organ's function in stridulation has been misconstrued since it was described half a century ago.

  • Received September 2, 2010.
  • Accepted September 28, 2010.
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