Labandeira, Conrad C Department of Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.
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A modestly diverse order constituting about 5500 species of medium-sized insects and representing about 9 extinct and 18 surviving families that currently occupy a broad range of terrestrial to freshwater habitats. They are distributed across all continents except Antarctica. Neuropterans are characterized by the holometabolous development of an egg→larva→pupa→adult sequence, whose greatest morphological and ecologic variability lies among their larvae. Neuropteran larvae include species such as underwater forms that feed on freshwater sponges (Sisyridae, spongillaflies), underground litter and root feeders (Ithonidae, ithonid lacewings), inhabitants of leaf surfaces that are pursuit predators of aphids (Chrysopidae, green lacewings), parasitoids and predators of spider and social wasp eggs (Mantispidae, mantisflies), and ambush predators that shallowly bury themselves at the bottoms of conical sand pits that snag infalling prey such as ants (Myrmeleontidae, antlions). See also: Endopterygota; Insecta
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