Erik Tihelka

Erik Tihelka
University of Bristol | UB · School of Earth Sciences

About

73
Publications
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Introduction
I am interested in everything interesting there is about insects, namely in terms of their evolution. Combining diverse lines of evidence from palaeontology, genomics and neontology, I focus on the deep phylogeny of insects and the hexapod fossil record (with an emphasis on beetles). At present, I am an undergraduate student of palaeobiology at the University of Bristol.

Publications

Publications (73)
Article
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The scarabaeoid beetle Mesoceratocanthus from the Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation was originally placed in the extant tribe Ivieolini (Hybosoridae). Our re-examination of the holotype and a new specimen demonstrates that Mesoceratocanthus does not possess the diagnostic characters of Ivieolini or Hybosoridae. Instead, it should be assigned to the...
Article
With some 3,700 described species, Dryopoidea are a moderately diverse superfamily of beetles whose position within basal Polyphaga has been historically difficult to elucidate. Members of most extant dryopoid families are set apart from the majority of other polyphagans by their association with aquatic habitats, but little is known about the orig...
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Beetles constitute the most biodiverse animal order with over 380 000 described species and possibly several million more yet unnamed. Recent phylogenomic studies have arrived at considerably incongruent topologies and widely varying estimates of divergence dates for major beetle clades. Here, we use a dataset of 68 single-copy nuclear protein-codi...
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The Cretaceous witnessed a radiation of rove beetles (Staphylinidae), the most species-rich beetle family. Although most staphylinid subfamilies have been documented from Cretaceous strata over the world, there has been no fossil record of the subfamily Pseudopsinae until a recently reported fossil from the 99-Ma-old Myanmar amber. Here we describe...
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Soil has become a major hotspot of biodiversity studies, yet the pattern and timing of the evolution of soil organisms are poorly known because of the scarcity of palaeontological data. To overcome this limitation, we conducted a genome-based macroevolutionary study of an ancient, diversified, and widespread lineage of soil fauna, the elongate-bodi...
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A new stag beetle fossil is described from the Yixian Formation in northeastern China. A new genus is established based on this well-preserved specimen. Prolucanus beipiaoensis gen. et sp. nov. is firmly placed in the extant lucanid subfamily Lucaninae based on its broad prosternal process and geniculate antennae. Our discovery represents the first...
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The rapid Cretaceous diversification of flowering plants remains Darwin’s ‘abominable mystery’ despite numerous fossil flowers discovered in recent years. Wildfires were frequent in the Cretaceous and many such early flower fossils are represented by charcoalified fragments, lacking complete delicate structures and surface textures, making their si...
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Jacobsoniidae is a species-poor family of minute polyphagan beetles distributed in tropical and subtropical regions. Both extant representatives of the family as well as fossils are rare. Here we describe a new fossil species, Derolathrus capdoliensis n. sp., from latest Albian-earliest Cenomanian Charentese amber from the Cadeuil deposit, Charente...
Article
Limited photon flux from the specimen using laser scanning microscopy during very short pixel dwell time often leads to insufficient signal-to-noise ratios (SNR). Increasing the SNR is invariably accompanied with a high power density, which may cause thermal damage to valuable specimens, for instance, the amber fossil record which provides an unpar...
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Apocephalus borealis is a parasitoid of hymenopterans native to North America that also attacks introduced honey bees (Apis mellifera). Parasitism by this species has been associated with infested bees absconding the hive and dying outside. The flies can also harbour viral infections and nosematosis. Recently, nucleotide sequences identical to A. b...
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Nosodendridae is a small polyphagan beetle family with a sparse fossil record. Herein, the fossil Nosodendridae from mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber (ca. 99 Ma) are systematically reviewed. Nosodendron cretaceum Deng et al. is transferred into Archaenosodendron Li & Cai gen. nov., as A. cretaceum (Deng et al.) comb. nov., primarily based on the morpho...
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The cryptic slime mold beetles, Sphindidae, are a moderately diverse cucujoid beetle family, whose members are obligately tied to slime molds throughout their life. The fossil record of sphindid beetles is sparse; stem-sphindids and crown-group members of uncertain systematic placement have been reported from Cretaceous ambers. Here we review the M...
Article
Insects comprise over half of all described animal species. Together with the Protura (coneheads), Collembola (springtails) and Diplura (two-pronged bristletails), insects form the Hexapoda, a terrestrial arthropod lineage characterised by possessing six legs. Exponential growth of genome-scale data for the hexapods has substantially altered our un...
Article
Erik Tihelka and Chenyang Cai introduce Salinella, a cryptic basal metazoan taxon.
Preprint
Full-text available
With over 380,000 described species and possibly several million more yet unnamed, beetles represent the most biodiverse animal order. Recent phylogenomic studies have arrived at considerably incongruent topologies and widely varying estimates of divergence dates for major beetle clades. Here we use a dataset of 68 single-copy nuclear protein codin...
Preprint
Full-text available
The evolution of wings propelled insects to their present mega-diversity. However, interordinal relationships of early-diverging winged insects and the timescale of their evolution are difficult to resolve, in part due to uncertainties in the placement of the enigmatic and species-poor order Zoraptera. The 'Zoraptera problem' has remained a content...
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The relictual archostematan beetle family Ommatidae attained high diversity during the Mesozoic. Despite their once high taxonomic diversity and morphological disparity, many Mesozoic ommatid taxa remain poorly understood, partly due to limited preservation. Here we report an exceptionally well-preserved fossil, which we describe as a new ommatid g...
Article
Termites (Isoptera) are among the most ecologically ubiquitous of terrestrial eusocial insects and provide an attractive environment for symbionts, which have evolved numerous times independently, and in lineages as diverse as millipedes and beetles. Previous studies reported the discovery of unequivocal termitophily in mid-Cretaceous amber from no...
Article
The first fossil representative of the cleroid family Trogossitidae is described from mid‐Cretaceous Burmese amber. Microtrogossita qizhihaoi Li & Cai gen. et sp. nov. is unique among Trogossitidae in the relatively widely separated procoxal and mesocoxal cavities, weakly asymmetrical antennal clubs, coarsely facetted eyes, coarse sculpture of dors...
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Lophocateridae is a small family of cleroid beetles with more than one hundred species in 14 genera (Crowson, 1970; Kolibáč, 2013; Kolibáč & Peris, 2021). While the group was previously treated as a subfamily or tribe of Trogossitidae (e.g., Crowson, 1964; Barron, 1971; Ślipiński, 1992; Kolibáč, 2006), molecular phylogenetic analyses have not suppo...
Article
Rove beetles of the Staphylinine group of subfamilies represent the most species-rich clade of Staphylinidae, which in turn is the most speciose beetle family. While several relationships within the Staphylinine group are well supported by morphological and molecular data alike, the basal relationships within the clade remain unresolved. In particu...
Preprint
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Background: Flowering plants (angiosperms) dominate most global ecosystems today, but their rapid Cretaceous diversification has remained poorly understood ever since Darwin referred to it as an ‘abominable mystery’. Although numerous Cretaceous fossil flowers have been discovered in recent years, most are represented by incomplete charcoalified fr...
Article
The sooty mould beetles (Cyclaxyridae) are a small and relictual family of cucujoid beetles with only two extant species restricted to New Zealand. The systematic position of the family within Cucujoidea is unresolved, with morphological and molecular studies yielding a range of incongruent topologies. Here we describe a new cyclaxyrid genus and sp...
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A new lycid beetle, Murcybolus longiantennus gen. et sp. nov., is reported from mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber (ca. 99 Ma). Murcybolus is placed in the recently erected fossil tribe Burmolycini based on the fully metamorphosed female, 10-segmented antennae, and pronotal disc with deep rounded punctures but without carinae. Murcybolus differs from the...
Article
The soft-winged flower beetles are a diverse cosmopolitan family of cleroid beetles with an unresolved higher classification, the adults of which feed on nectar and pollen. The fossil record of Melyridae is sparse, with only two described fossils known from the Mesozoic. Here we describe the first representative of the family from the Mesozoic of E...
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Despite the crucial importance of flower-visiting insects in modern ecosystems, there is little fossil evidence on the origins of angiosperm pollination. Most reports of pollination in the Mesozoic fossil record have been based on the co-occurrence of the purported pollinators with pollen grains and assumed morphological adaptations for vectoring p...
Article
Nosodendridae, the wounded-tree beetles, are a small polyphagan family with less than 100 described species placed into two extant and one fossil genera. Here we describe a new nosodendrid genus and species, Mesonosa scandens gen. et sp. nov., from mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber from northern Myanmar (ca. 99 Ma). The new genus differs from extant nos...
Article
A new tenebrionoid beetle genus with two species, Kulindrobor enigmaticus gen. et sp. nov. and Kulindrobor magnus gen. et sp. nov., is described from mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber. This highly distinctive genus differs from all extant tenebrionoid families. The beetle’s unusual elongate and subcylindrical body with a long prothorax and appendages su...
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Bioluminescent beetles of the superfamily Elateroidea (fireflies, fire beetles, glow-worms) are the most speciose group of terrestrial light-producing animals. The evolution of bioluminescence in elateroids is associated with unusual morphological modifications, such as soft-bodiedness and neoteny, but the fragmentary nature of the fossil record di...
Article
The Permian–Triassic mass extinction (PTME), the most devastating extinction event in Phanerozoic history, has witnessed the demise of almost 80% of marine gastropod genera. Despite the vast scale of the extinction event, the recovery of some groups of marine gastropods has been curiously fast, contrasting with the delayed recovery of many other ma...
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Stegocoleus Jarzembowski & Wang is an enigmatic genus in the family Ommatidae, known to date only from Burmese amber. This genus possesses a unique combination of characters, including antennal grooves on the ventral side of head, well-developed epipleural rims, and presence of separated procoxae, which makes its systematic position unclear. Here w...
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Fleas (Siphonaptera) are medically important blood-feeding insects responsible for spreading pathogens such as plague, murine typhus, and myxomatosis. The peculiar morphology of fleas resulting from their specialised ectoparasitic lifestyle has meant that the phylogenetic position of this diverse and medically important group has remained one of th...
Article
The wounded-tree beetles (Nosodendridae) are a small and enigmatic polyphagan family with just under 100 species in two extant genera comprising minute round-oval beetles associated with fermenting tree sap. Here we describe the first extinct genus of Nosodendridae from mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber from northern Myanmar (ca. 99 Ma). Basinosa pengwe...
Article
Pseudopsinae represented by four genera with just over 50 species in the Recent fauna represent one of the smallest subfamilies of the megadiverse family Staphylinidae. Here we describe the first fossil member of the subfamily Pseudopsinae. Cretopseudopsis maweii gen. et sp. nov. preserved in mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber (ca. 99 Ma) is distinguishe...
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Stick and leaf insects (Phasmatodea) are a distinctive insect order whose members are characterized by mimicking various plant tissues such as twigs, foliage and bark. Unfortunately, the phylogenetic relationships among phasmatodean subfamilies and the timescale of their evolution remain uncertain. Recent molecular clock analyses have suggested a C...
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A new genus belonging to the cucujoid family Helotidae, Trihelota gen. nov., is described from mid-Cretaceous (ca.99 million years old) amber from Kachin State, northern Myanmar, containing a single species T. fulvata sp. nov. The minute fossil was documented using fluorescence microscopy and X-ray microtomography to reveal fine morphological detai...
Article
Cylindrical bark beetles (subfamily Colydiinae) are a group of mycophagous and predatory beetles placed in the family Zopheridae with a complicated taxonomic history and an unresolved phylogeny. We describe a new genus and two new species of strikingly cylindrical and elongate colydiid beetles from mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber mined in northern Mya...
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Western honey bees (Apis mellifera) are one of the most important pollinators of agricultural crops and wild plants. Despite the growth in the availability of sequence data for honey bees, the phylogeny of the species remains a subject of controversy. Most notably, the geographic origin of honey bees is uncertain, as are the relationships among its...
Article
The majority of organisms that ever lived on the Earth, and hence the majority of evolutionary innovations, are now extinct. Only fragments of this past diversity are observable in the form of the fossil record. Biomimicry and biotechnology seek to utilize the astonishing diversity of living organism's solutions to complex biological problems as in...
Article
Thanerocleridae is a small family of predaceous cleroid beetles with a cosmopolitan distribution. Here we describe a new genus and species, Mesozenodosus insularis gen. et sp. nov., from early Cenomanian Charentese amber from the Fouras deposit, Charente-Maritime department in south-western France. The new genus belongs to the relictual subfamily Z...
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Eucnemidae is a relatively large beetle family belonging to the polyphagan superfamily Elateroidea. Numerous fossil eucnemids have been reported from Cenozoic deposits, but the Mesozoic record of Eucnemidae is much sparser. Here we describe and figure a new eucnemid beetle, Muonabuntor grandinotalis gen. et sp. nov., discovered from mid-Cretaceous...
Article
A new fossil species belonging to the extant Central American genus Diceroderes Solier, 1841 (Tenebrionidae: Tenebrioninae: Toxicini) is described based on an exquisitely preserved male specimen from early Miocene Mexican (Chiapas) amber (∼23–16 Ma). High-resolution X-ray microtomography was used to document fine anatomical detail of soft tissues,...
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Reproduction is a key aspect of evolution, but the process is rarely preserved in the fossil record. Organisms fortuitously preserved undergoing reproduction provide an exceptional window illuminating the biology of extinct taxa, especially those with unknown phylogenetic position. Here we report exceptional specimens of chitinozoans (enigmatic Pal...
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Structural colours, nature's most pure and intense colours, originate when light is scattered via nanoscale modulations of the refractive index. Original colours in fossils illuminate the ecological interactions among extinct organisms and functional evolution of colours. Here, we report multiple examples of vivid metallic colours in diverse insect...
Article
Elucidating the phylogenetic affinities of enigmatic fossils is crucial for resolving the early diversification of the superfamily Cucujoidea, a diverse group of polyphagan beetles whose relationships remain contentious. The systematic position of the Cretaceous genus Pleuroceratos known from Burmese amber has been uncertain; the genus was previous...
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Mimicry is ubiquitous in nature, yet understanding its origin and evolution is complicated by the scarcity of exceptional fossils that enable behavioral inferences about extinct animals. Here we report bizarre true bugs (Hemiptera) that closely resemble beetles (Coleoptera) from mid-Cretaceous amber. The unusual fossil bugs are described as Bersta...
Article
Protopselaphinae is a monogeneric subfamily of Staphylinidae comprising eight extant and one extinct species of minute rove beetles. We describe a tenth species of this enigmatic subfamily, Protopselaphus newtoni sp. nov., from mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber (~99 Ma). Protopselaphus newtoni sp. nov. differs from its congeners in its smaller body size...
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The megadiverse subfamily Staphylininae traditionally belonged to the best-defined rove beetle taxa, but the advent of molecular phylogenetics in the last decade has brought turbulent changes to the group's classification. Here, we reevaluate the internal relationships among the tribes of Staphylininae by implementing tree inference methods that su...
Article
Diving beetles and their allies are a virtually ubiquitous group of freshwater predators. Knowledge of the phylogeny of the adephagan superfamily Dytiscoidea has significantly improved since the advent of molecular phylogenetics. However, despite recent comprehensive phylogenomic studies, some phylogenetic relationships among the constituent famili...
Article
Variegated mud-loving beetles, or Heteroceridae, are a small family belonging to the polyphagan superfamily Byrrhoidea. To date, only two poorly preserved compression fossils have been known from the Early Cretaceous of Eurasia. Here we describe the first heterocerid beetles in mid-Cretaceous amber from northern Myanmar, Excavotarsus lini gen. et s...
Article
Protopselaphinae is a small rove beetle subfamily endemic to southeast Asia with only eight extant species placed into a single genus. Here we describe and illustrate the first fossil representative of Protopselaphinae, Protopselaphus thayerae sp. nov., from mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber (Albian-Cenomanian). The new species is distinguished from all...