The head of Merope tuber (Meropeidae) and the phylogeny of Mecoptera (Hexapoda)

F. Friedrich, H. Pohl, F. Beckmann, R.G. Beutel
Arthropod structure & development 42(1), 69-88
Graphical abstract: 

External and internal features of the head of adults of Merope tuber were examined and described in detail. The results were compared to conditions found in other members of Mecoptera and other antliophoran lineages. A list of characters of different body parts and life stages is presented. The parsimony analysis and a recent evaluation of thoracic features suggest a basal placement of Merope within monophyletic Pistillifera. The monophyly of Mecoptera was not supported by our data set. Nannochoristidae (Nannomecoptera) was placed as sistertaxon of a clade comprising Diptera and Siphonaptera. Cephalic features supporting this group are modifications of the mouthparts linked to feeding on liquid substrates. Considering recent results of extensive morphological and molecular investigations we consider this placement of Nannochoristidae and the implied mecopteran paraphyly as a possible artefact. Potential cephalic autapomorphies of Mecoptera are the presence of a tooth-like projection of the gena and a prepharyngeal tube, the absence of M. frontolabralis, and the origin of M. tentoriooralis on the middle region of the anterior tentorial arm. Despite of the conspicuous morphological differences between Caurinus and the other boreid genera the family forms a well supported clade. A sistergroup relationship between Boreidae and Pistillifera is confirmed. A unique synapomorphy is the presence of specialized dilator muscles of the salivary duct. The reconstruction of the relationships of the pistilliferan taxa is strongly impeded by a serious lack of morphological data. However, a group comprising Eomeropidae, Choristidae, Apteropanorpidae, Panorpidae and Panorpodidae is supported in our analyses. Further well documented anatomical data are needed for a reliable reconstruction of mecopteran relationships. The collecting and morphological study of larvae should also have high priority. Inherent problems are extreme secondary modifications of cephalic features of Caurinus and Nannochorista.