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Holometabola, also known as Endopterygota (from Ancient Greek endon 'inner' + pterón 'wing' + Neo-Latin -ota 'having'), is a superorder of insects within the infraclass Neoptera that go through distinctive larval, pupal, and adult stages. They undergo a radical metamorphosis, with the larval and adult stages differing considerably in their structure and behaviour. This is called holometabolism, or complete metamorphism.

Temporal range: Pennsylvanian–Recent Molecular clock indicates a possible Mississippian origin[1]
Panorpa communis, a scorpionfly (order Mecoptera)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
(unranked): Eumetabola
(unranked): Holometabola
Burmeister, 1835

See text


Endopterygota Sharp, 1898

Evolution edit

The Holometabola constitute the most diverse insect superorder, with over 1 million living species divided between 11 orders, containing insects such as butterflies, flies, fleas, bees, ants, and beetles.[2]

The earliest holometabolan fossils date from the Carboniferous.[3]

The Holometabola are sometimes divided into three assemblages: Neuropterida (Neuroptera, Megaloptera, Raphidioptera, Strepsiptera and Coleoptera), Hymenopteroida (Hymenoptera), and Panorpida (Siphonaptera, Diptera, Trichoptera, Lepidoptera and Mecoptera).

Molecular analysis has clarified the group's phylogeny, as shown in the cladogram.[4]


Hymenoptera (sawflies, wasps)  


Raphidioptera (snakeflies)  

Megaloptera (alderflies and allies)  

Neuroptera (Lacewings and allies)  


Coleoptera (beetles)  

Strepsiptera (twisted-wing parasites)  


Trichoptera (caddisflies)  

Lepidoptera (butterflies, moths)  



Mecoptera (scorpionflies)  

Siphonaptera (fleas)  


Description edit

Holometabolism stages in Hymenoptera

The Endopterygota are distinguished from the Exopterygota by the way in which their wings develop. Endopterygota (literally "internal winged forms") develop wings inside the body and undergo an elaborate metamorphosis involving a pupal stage. Exopterygota ("external winged forms") develop wings on the outside their bodies and do not go through a pupal stage. The latter trait is plesiomorphic, however, as it is found also in groups such as Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies), which are not Neoptera, but more basal among insects.

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Wang, Y.-h. et al. Fossil record of stem groups employed in evaluating the chronogram of insects (Arthropoda: Hexapoda). Sci. Rep. 6, 38939; doi:10.1038/srep38939 (2016).
  2. ^ Rolf G. Beutel; Hans Pohl (2006). "Endopterygote systematics – where do we stand and what is the goal (Hexapoda, Arthropoda)?". Systematic Entomology. 31 (2): 202–219. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3113.2006.00341.x. S2CID 83714402.
  3. ^ A. Nel; P. Roques; P. Nel; J. Prokop; J. S. Steyer (2007). "The earliest holometabolous insect from the Carboniferous: a "crucial" innovation with delayed success (Insecta Protomeropina Protomeropidae)". Annales de la Société Entomologique de France. 43 (3): 349–355. doi:10.1080/00379271.2007.10697531. S2CID 86235521.
  4. ^ Kjer, Karl M.; Simon, Chris; Yavorskaya, Margarita & Beutel, Rolf G. (2016). "Progress, pitfalls and parallel universes: a history of insect phylogenetics". Journal of the Royal Society Interface. 13 (121): 121. doi:10.1098/rsif.2016.0363. PMC 5014063. PMID 27558853.