The Palaeoptera is the group of primitive (basal) winged insects which do not fold the wings back over the abdomen, as Neoptera do. Most of them are extinct; the living ones are the Ephemeroptera (mayflies) and Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies).
Temporal range: Carboniferous – Recent
|The Green Drake (Ephemera danica), a mayfly (Ephemeroptera: Ephemeridae)|
The Palaeoptera may not be monophyletic: the issue is not yet settled. On the other hand, the Neoptera definitely are monophyletic.
The absence of wing-folding does not necessarily mean the Palaeoptera form a natural group. They may just be a group of insects that "are not Neoptera", in other words, a wastebasket taxon. As it stands, the relationship of the two living Paleopteran groups to the Neoptera is unclear.
Probably the concept of Palaeoptera will be changed to better reflect insect evolution. In any case, three main palaeopteran lineages, traditionally treated as superorders, are recognized. Of these, the Palaeodictyopteroidea themselves might also be a paraphyletic assemblage of very basal Pterygota.
- Mayfly group
- Ephemeroptera (mayflies)
- †Palaeodictyoptera group (all are extinct)
- Dragonfly group (sometimes all are placed in the Odonata)
- Called Odonatoidea in some treatments
- Maddison, David R. 2002. Tree of Life Web Project. Pterygota: winged insects. Retrieved 2008-Dec-15.
- Trueman, John W.H. 2008. Tree of Life Web Project. Pterygote higher relationships
- Trueman, John W.H. & Rowe, Richard J. 2008. Tree of Life Web Project. Odonata: dragonflies and damselflies