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Research Team for Insect Evolution and Environmental Change of CNU (Rated as Innovative Research Team by the Ministry of Education) Won Second Prize of the Beijing Science and Technology Award (for Natural Science)

Recently, the research on insect mimicry and behavioral adaptability in theYanliao Biota in the Jurassic Periodjointly done by the research team for insect evolution and environmental change of CNU, which has been rated as an innovative research team by the Ministry of Education, and the Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences won the second prize of the Beijing Science and Technology Award (for Natural Science). The winners are Ren Dong, Wang Yongjie, Gao Taiping, Gu Junjie, Wei Xinli, Fang Hui, Yang Hongru, Liu Jiaxi and Zhao Yunyun.

Insects have the most species. The abundance of insects is closely related to their diversified behaviors. Mimicry is a unique adaptive behavior and one of the most successful defense strategies which insects have developed during their interaction with the environment. Insects have a history of 400 million years. Researching on insect mimicry from the sourceis of great theoretical significance for understanding the origin of mimicry behavior and the formation of modern insect diversity. The research team made full use of abundant fossil resources in the Yanliao Biota. Based on mimicry insects-mimicked objects-spatio-temporal consistency, it discovered the world’s earliest Bellinympha filicifolia which mimicked the leaves of Cycas revoluta in a stratum dating back 165 million years, pushing forward the history of insect mimicry by 120 million years. In the same stratum, mimicry between Juracimbrophlebia ginkgofoliaand ginkgo biloba and their complex mutualism relationship were also found. The discovery of phlebotomus mimicking lichen in the Yanliao Biota advances the origin of large lichens by 100 million years and confirms that large lichens had a complex interaction with insects during the Jurassic Period. The research team also found that Aclistophasma echinulatum (a stick insect) resisted natural enemies with the spines on its body surface while mimicking plants, a more complex secondary defense strategy. This indicates that Jurassic mimicry insects shifted from concealment to active defense. In particular, the research team successfully recovered the “sound” of Jurassic mimicry katydids, and proved that the Archaboilus evolved a more complex and efficient acoustic communication behavior along with mimicry. Chirping to convey information could help them avoid predators more effectively, thus improving their survival and reproduction. This was the first time in the world that the sound of an ancient animal was restored with audio data.

These findings prove that Jurassic insectshaddiversified and differentiated mimicry behaviors and unique adaptability, including a primary mimicry relationship in which mimicry insects benefitedalone, and a co-evolution relationship in which mimicry insects and mimicked objects benefited from each other. Juracimbrophlebia ginkgofoliawasrated as one of the world’s top 10 newly discovered species in 2012. The above research on insect mimicry behaviors has been adopted in authoritative international textbooks and monographs. This was the third time that the research team for insect evolution and environmental change of CNU won the Beijing Science and Technology Award after 2002 (second prize) and 2012 (first prize).