Mazon Creek Protorthoptera Insect Fossil Protecticus ambulans

Protecticus ambulans

Class Insecta, Order Protorthoptera (Handlirsch, 1906), Family Spanioderidae

Geological Time: Carboniferous, Westphalian Stage

Size: 21 mm with 14 mm wings

Fossil Site: Mazon Creek, Francis Creek Shale, Braidwood, Illinois

ProtecticusDescription: The Mazon Creek deposits of the region near Braidwood, Illinois rival the other famous Lagerstatten of the Burgess Shale, Solnhofen, and Chengjiang for the variety of detailed life preserved. Many exquisitely-preserved specimens are found in the Protorthopteraironstone nodules that make up the deposits. This fine example is one of a member of the Protorthoptera, and comes from Mazon Creek itself.

They appear during the Middle Carboniferous (late Serpukhovian or early Bashkirian), making them among the earliest known winged insects in the fossil record. The Protorthoperans form an extinct insect order that is related to the Order Orthoptera. However, they lack the jumping hind legs associated with that more modern order. They are known only from the Upper Carboniferous to the Permian when they became extinct as did so much of life on Earth. Note the fine details preserved here; the thorax and abdomen are often obscured by the wings, but are clearly evident in this exceptional specimen.

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