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New fossil wasp species from the earliest Eocene Fur Formation has its closest relatives in late Eocene ambers (Hymenoptera, Ichneumonidae, Pherhombinae)

By Noah Meier, Anina Wacker, Seraina Klopfstein

Posted 22 Nov 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.11.22.469510

Darwin wasps (Ichneumonidae) are one of the most species-rich insect families, but also one of the most understudied ones, both in terms of their extant and extinct diversity. We here use morphometrics of wing veins and an integrative Bayesian analysis to place a new rock fossil species from the Danish Fur Formation (~54 Ma) in the tree of Darwin wasps. The new species, Pherhombus parvulus n. sp., is placed firmly in Pherhombinae, an extinct subfamily so far only known from Baltic and Rovno-Ukranian ambers, which are estimated to be 34-48 Ma and 34-38 Ma, respectively. Our phylogenetic analysis recovers a subfamily clade within the higher Ophioniformes formed by Pherhombinae, Townesitinae and Hybrizontinae, in accordance with previous suggestions. Due to the placement of the new species as sister to the remaining members of Pherhombinae, we argue that our finding is not at odds with a much younger, late Eocene age (~34-41 Ma) of Baltic amber and instead demonstrates that Pherhombus existed over a much longer period than previously thought. Our results also exemplify the power of wing vein morphometrics and integrative phylogenetic analyses in resolving the placement even of poorly preserved fossil specimens.

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