Antiquity and long-term morphological stasis in a group of rove beetles (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae): Description of the oldest Octavius species from Cretaceous Burmese amber and a review of the "Euaesthetine subgroup" fossil record


The Staphylinine group of rove beetle subfamilies is a significant animal radiation, and one subordinate monophyletic clade - the 'Euaesthetine subgroup' - includes around 3000 species in subfamilies Euaesthetinae and Steninae and has a fossil record dating to the Early Cretaceous. Detailed morphological study of a new well-preserved Cretaceous Burmese amber fossil revealed strong evidence consistent with its taxonomic placement in the euaesthetine genus Octavius. We thus describe Octavius electrospinosus sp. nov., the first Cretaceous record of the genus and of the tribe Euaesthetini. Previously, the oldest records of Octavius and Euaesthetini were from the Eocene (Baltic amber) and discovery of O. electrospinosus sp. nov. therefore nearly doubles the minimum lineage age of Octavius, increasing it by ∼50 million years. We also briefly review the known Euaesthetine subgroup fossil record and tabulate summary data for all previously described fossils. All are placed in extant genera, and have visible diagnostic generic-level characters including some putative synapomorphies as judged by recent phylogenetic work. Including O. electrospinosus sp. nov., there are now four known Cretaceous species, all of which belong to either Octavius, Nordenskioldia, or Stenus. To explain the long-term morphological stasis in this group of rove beetles, we suggest that the continuous presence of mesic habitats may have buffered these lineages from strong selection for morphological change. Considering the fossils along with phylogenetic hypotheses we suggest the Euaesthetine subgroup originated in the Late Jurassic- Early Cretaceous and the Staphylinine group in the Early Jurassic. We emphasize the derived status of Cretaceous fossils in assessing possible divergence times and the significance of the pre-Cretaceous taphonomic bias for restricting more robust estimates. Further detailed morphological study of available fossils in a phylogenetic framework is badly needed to clarify the phylogenetic positions of these taxa. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Publication Title

Cretaceous Research