Palaeo-evo-devo: bringing fossil insects back to life

Fossil immature stages of the holometabolous insects are often seen as an obsolete paleontological record. This is caused by the implicit bias of contemporary paleoentomology towards alpha-diversity and new taxa description, most often done in insects based on the adult males.

The larvae of flies (Diptera) are immensely important in performing quite a number of key ecosystem functions, ranging from carbon sequestering to stabilization of the lake bottom sediments and reducing water turbidity. Still, these larvae appear especially neglected. That leads to the misguided belief that fossil immatures of Diptera are rare in the fossil records. Despite that, our targeted search for dipteran larvae and pupae in several amber collections has yielded hundreds of specimens of larvae and pupae from various ingroups of Diptera.

In my talk I will cover how one can convert this wealth of material into the better understanding of the fossil animal’s biology and how the data obtained from fossils can benefit conservation, forestry, and forensics. 

Viktor Baranov studied Biology (BSc) and Zoology & Animal Ecology (MSc, honors) at the V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University (Ukraine). After competition of his Master’s degree in 2011, he worked for two years as an adjunct at the Department of Zoology of his alma mater, teaching medical zoology and parasitology. Between 2011 and 2013 he visited a number of international facilities, including the Entomological laboratory of Bergen University Museum (Norway), Gdansk laboratory of Amber Palaeobiology (Poland) and the Zoological Institute in St. Petersburg (Russia). In 2014 Viktor Baranov won the Marie Curie early career fellowship, which allowed him to pursue a PhD in the ecology and biogeochemical impact of aquatic insects on the carbon and oxygen cycles in lakes. After receiving his PhD in Environmental and Earth Science (2017) from Humboldt University of Berlin, he proceeded to a 1.5 year postdoc in the Department of River Ecology and Conservation of Senckenberg Museum (Gelnhausen), working on long term trends in aquatic insect communities. Since October 2018 he has worked in Joachim Haug’s research group (LMU Munich), dealing with evolutionary biology and ecology of the Holometabolan insect larvae. The primary interests and encompassing framework of Viktor Baranov’s studies is the biology and geological history of aquatic Diptera, predominantly Chironomidae.

Date & time

11am–12pm 2 March 2020


Discovery Lecture Theatre, CSIRO Black Mountain


Viktor Baranov, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany


 Keith Bayless

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