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Evolutionary history of the formation of forceps and maternal care in earwigs

Dermaptera (earwigs) are an order of common insects often found under stones and is characterized by a pair of forcep-like pincers on their dark abdominal ends. Systematically, they belong to Polyneoptera, which is important for understanding the evolution of insects. However, there is no consensus among researchers on assigning them to Polyneoptera, their position within the group, or the relationships between families within this order.

Recently, large-scale molecular phylogenetic analyses have begun to elucidate these phylogenetic aspects. However, the understanding of evolution will be extremely superficial in absence of biological information on development and reproduction.

Therefore, researchers examined the developmental and reproductive biology of almost all Dermaptera families (8 out of 11) and compared them from various perspectives. The results corroborated the systematic membership of Dermaptera to Polyneoptera and strongly supported the phylogeny within the order, which was inferred from the latest molecular phylogenetic analyses but was significantly different from the conventional understanding. These findings indicated that the “caudal forceps,” which is a major characteristic of Dermaptera, and the “elaborate maternal care for eggs and young larvae,” which are an important behavioral trait in this order, have emerged in parallel.

Future studies will examine more basal families as well as families whose monophyly is dubious, including more genera into the analysis, to advance the phylogenetic understanding of Dermaptera and, ultimately of Polyneoptera and Insecta.

This study was supported by the JSPS (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) KAKENHI: Grant-in-Aid for JSPS Research Fellowship for Young Scientists (24-1550) to SS; Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research C: 21570089, 25440201, 19K06821, and Scientific Research B:16H04825 to RM.

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