Hemiptera Sucking Insects

What are known as the "true bugs" or Hemiptera are part of an enormously diverse order with roots going back to the Permian Period. Basal members of this group were probably predators, with mouthparts originally designed to suck fluids from other animals. These same mouthparts were adapted over time to feed on plants, and most hemipterans were, and continue to be, plant eaters. The rise and diversity of the hemipterans coincides with the spread of gymnosperm plants. Extinct members of this group, such as Archysctina and Permopsylla from the Permian of Kansas, have a moveable beak for piercing and sucking fluids from plants. Two main groups make up the hemipterans: the Sternorrhyncha (aphids, whiteflies, plant lice, and scale insects) and the Auchenorrhyncha (leafhoppers, planthoppers, and cicadas).

The sternorrhynchans lead an immobile life, barely moving from the same spot for their entire lives. They attach themselves to a leaf or stem and remain in place, sometimes in great numbers, creating a harvest of sedentary prey for carnivorous beetles and others insects. Excellent specimens of extinct sternorrhynchans have been found in amber dating from the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods. Fossil aphids are particularly well known. The earliest specimens of sternorrhynchans appear as wingless nymphs from the Permian and Triassic Periods.

The auchenorrhynchans feed on plant fluids just as do the ster-norrhynchans, but the auchenorrhynchans are winged and more mobile. Leafhoppers are known for their extraordinary camouflage, which mimics the stems and leaves on which they feed. Cicadas grow large and have the longest maturation period of any insect. They can fly but live largely static lives, clinging to trees and blending in visually with the bark as they suck plant juices. The earliest fossil auchenorrhynchans are found in sediments dating from the Permian Period.

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