Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 May 2016
Insects are the most diverse macroorganismic group to ever inhabit the planet, constituting a major share of the animal biomass in terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems. Since their first appearance in the fossil record some 400 million years ago, they have expanded ecologically into almost every niche except the ocean below the photic zone. When fossilized, their chitinous exoskeletons typically are well preserved, as evidenced by a respectable fossil record. They are found notably in lacustrine shales and amber but also occur in siderite nodules, lithographic limestone, sinter deposits, asphalt, and various glacial deposits. Insect fossils are major subjects in phylogenetic studies but are used to a lesser extent in understanding past ecological associations and reconstruction of ancient environments.
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