Protorthoptera (Handlirsch, 1906), Family Spanioderidae
Time: Carboniferous, Westphalian Stage
mm with 14 mm wings
Site: Mazon Creek, Francis Creek Shale, Braidwood, Illinois
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 ironstone
nodules that make up the deposits. This fine example is one of a
member of the Protorthoptera, and comes from Mazon Creek itself.
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.