Whirling in the late Permian: ancestral Gyrinidae show early radiation of beetles before Permian-Triassic mass extinction.BMC Evol Biol. 2018 03 16; 18(1):33.BE
Gyrinidae are a charismatic group of highly specialized beetles, adapted for a unique lifestyle of swimming on the water surface. They prey on drowning insects and other small arthropods caught in the surface film. Studies based on morphological and molecular data suggest that gyrinids were the first branch splitting off in Adephaga, the second largest suborder of beetles. Despite its basal position within this lineage and a very peculiar morphology, earliest Gyrinidae were recorded not earlier than from the Upper Triassic.
Tunguskagyrus. with the single species Tunguskagyrus planus is described from Late Permian deposits of the Anakit area in Middle Siberia. The genus is assigned to the stemgroup of Gyrinidae, thus shifting back the minimum age of this taxon considerably: Tunguskagyrus demonstrates 250 million years of evolutionary stability for a very specialized lifestyle, with a number of key apomorphies characteristic for these epineuston predators and scavengers, but also with some preserved ancestral features not found in extant members of the family. It also implies that major splitting events in this suborder and in crown group Coleoptera had already occurred in the Permian. Gyrinidae and especially aquatic groups of Dytiscoidea flourished in the Mesozoic (for example Coptoclavidae and Dytiscidae) and most survive until the present day, despite the dramatic "Great Dying" - Permian-Triassic mass extinction, which took place shortly (in geological terms) after the time when Tunguskagyrus lived.
Tunguskagyrus confirms a Permian origin of Adephaga, which was recently suggested by phylogenetic "tip-dating" analysis including both fossil and Recent gyrinids. This also confirms that main splitting events leading to the "modern" lineages of beetles took place before the Permian-Triassic mass extinction. Tunguskagyrus shows that Gyrinidae became adapted to swimming on the water surface long before Mesozoic invasions of the aquatic environment took place (Dytiscoidea). The Permian origin of Gyrinidae is consistent with a placement of this highly derived family as the sister group of all remaining adephagan groups, as suggested based on morphological features of larvae and adults and recent analyses of molecular data.