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Meganeura

Restoration of Meganeura

Meganeura ("large-nerved") was a large relative of the dragonflies that lived in the Carboniferous.

DescriptionEdit

Meganeura was not actually a dragonfly as commonly stated. Instead, it should technically be called a "griffenfly", as part of the order Meganisoptera. Meganeura had a wingspan of up to 75 centimeters (newer estimates indicate 1 meter), one of the largest known flying insect species after its relative Meganeuropsis.[1]

How insects achieved this size during the Carboniferous is a subject of fierce debate. The first and most popular theory proposed that, when Meganeura and its relatives lived, the oxygen level was much higher than today.[2] However, large insects also occurred in the Late Permian, when the oxygen level was lower than in previous years.[3]

It has also been suggested the lack of aerial predators may have encouraged insects to evolve large sizes, in order to fill this niche.[4]

ClassificationEdit

Meganeura was part of the order Meganisoptera, which became completely extinct during the Permian period.[5]

DiscoveryEdit

Fossils of Meganeura were first discovered in a French coal mine. In 1885, Charles Brongniart described the species. Its name refers to the network of veins on its wings.[6]

PaleobiologyEdit

It is assumed that Meganeura was a predator, like modern dragonflies, and evidence seems to suggest it prayed on small lizards and could even have been cannibalistic.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Mitchell, F.L. and Lasswell, J. (2005): A dazzle of dragonflies Texas A&M University Press, 224 pages: page 47.
  2. Gauthier Chapelle and Lloyd S. Peck (May 1999). "Polar gigantism dictated by oxygen availability". Nature 399 (6732): 114–115. doi:10.1038/20099. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v399/n6732/abs/399114b0.html.
  3. Nel A.N., Fleck G., Garrouste R. and Gand, G. (2008): The Odonatoptera of the Late Permian Lodève Basin (Insecta). Journal of Iberian Geology 34(1): 115-122 PDF
  4. Bechly G. (2004): Evolution and systematics. pp. 7-16 in: Hutchins M., Evans A.V., Garrison R.W. and Schlager N. (eds): Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. 2nd Edition. Volume 3, Insects. 472 pp. Gale Group, Farmington Hills, MI PDF
  5. Nel A.N., Fleck G., Garrouste R. and Gand, G. (2008): The Odonatoptera of the Late Permian Lodève Basin (Insecta). Journal of Iberian Geology 34(1): 115-122 PDF
  6. http://paleodb.org/cgi-bin/bridge.pl?a=basicTaxonInfo&taxon_no=175803

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