Dr Pérez-de la Fuente’s research focuses on the palaeobiology of fossil arthropods, namely insects and arachnids. Although founded on morphology and systematics, his work is aimed at extracting palaeoecological, palaeoethological, palaeobiogeographical and taphonomic data. Special emphasis is put on the study of amber inclusions, particularly those from the Cretaceous, one of the most important periods for the diversification of terrestrial arthropods, linked with the radiation of flowering plants. Particular research interests encompass the early evolution of defensive (e.g. camouflage) adaptations, pollinating relationships and blood-feeding parasite-host interactions.
Hallucinochrysa diogenesi, a green lacewing larva in 105-million-year old Spanish amber carrying a debris packet composed of fern trichomes. Reconstruction (right) by J. A. Peñas. Publication: Pérez-de la Fuente et al., 2012.
Buccinatormyia magnifica, a long-proboscid fly from Early Cretaceous Spanish amber with a gymnosperm pollen clump attached to its abdomen. Reconstruction (right) by J. A. Peñas. Publication: Peñalver et al., 2015.
A Cornupalpatum burmanicum tick grasping a feather in 100-million-year-old Burmese amber. Publication: Peñalver et al., 2017.
Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente received a BSc in Biology (concentration in Organisms and Systems) from the University of Barcelona (2003–07) and a MSc in Palaeontology from the University of Barcelona and the Autonomous University of Barcelona (2007–08). Later, he received a PhD in Earth Sciences from the University of Barcelona (2008–12) supervised by Dr. Xavier Delclòs (UB) and Dr. Enrique Peñalver (IGME), with a project entitled 'Arthropod palaeobiology of the Cretaceous amber from El Soplao (Cantabria, Spain)'.
Prior to coming to the Museum, Dr. Pérez-de la Fuente was a postdoctoral fellow at the Museum of Comparative Zoology (Harvard University) funded by the US National Science Foundation for four years, where he led the digitisation/identification efforts on the F M Carpenter collection, one of the premier fossil insect collections worldwide, with about 35,000 specimens. He has published more than twenty papers in both specialised and multidisciplinary peer-reviewed journals, participated in more than twenty contributions to international meetings, lectured on palaeontology and entomology at university level, and participated in numerous amber excavations.
The hatching mechanism of 130-million-year-old insects: an association of neonates, egg shells and egg bursters in Lebanese amber
Perez-de la Fuente, R, Engel, MS, Azar, D, Penalver, E
Ticks parasitised feathered dinosaurs as revealed by Cretaceous amber assemblages
Peñalver, E, Arillo, A, Delclòs, X, Peris, D, Grimaldi, DA, Anderson, SR, Nascimbene, PC, Pérez-de la Fuente, R
False Blister Beetles and the Expansion of Gymnosperm-Insect Pollination Modes before Angiosperm Dominance.
Peris, D, Pérez-de la Fuente, R, Peñalver, E, Delclòs, X, Barrón, E, Labandeira, CC
Current biology : CB
During the mid-Cretaceous, angiosperms diversified from several nondiverse lineages to their current global domination , replacing earlier gymnosperm lineages . Several hypotheses explain this extensive radiation , one of which involves proliferation of insect pollinator associations in the transition from gymnosperm to angiosperm dominance. However, most evidence supports gymnosperm-insect pollinator associations, buttressed by direct evidence of pollen on insect bodies, currently established for four groups: Thysanoptera (thrips), Neuroptera (lacewings), Diptera (flies), and now Coleoptera (beetles). Each group represents a distinctive pollination mode linked to a unique mouthpart type and feeding guild [4-9]. Extensive indirect evidence, based on specialized head and mouthpart morphology, is present for one of these pollinator types, the long-proboscid pollination mode , representing minimally ten family-level lineages of Neuroptera, Mecoptera (scorpionflies), and Diptera [8, 10, 11]. A recurring feature uniting these pollinator modes is host associations with ginkgoalean, cycad, conifer, and bennettitalean gymnosperms. Pollinator lineages bearing these pollination modes were categorized into four evolutionary cohorts during the 35-million-year-long angiosperm radiation, each defined by its host-plant associations (gymnosperm or angiosperm) and evolutionary pattern (extinction, continuation, or origination) during this interval . Here, we provide the first direct evidence for one cohort, exemplified by the beetle Darwinylus marcosi, family Oedemeridae (false blister beetles), that had an earlier gymnosperm (most likely cycad) host association, later transitioning onto angiosperms . This association constitutes one of four patterns explaining the plateau of family-level plant lineages generally and pollinating insects specifically during the mid-Cretaceous angiosperm radiation .
Long-Proboscid Flies as Pollinators of Cretaceous Gymnosperms.
Peñalver, E, Arillo, A, Pérez-de la Fuente, R, Riccio, ML, Delclòs, X, Barrón, E, Grimaldi, DA
Current biology : CB
The great evolutionary success of angiosperms has traditionally been explained, in part, by the partnership of these plants with insect pollinators. The main approach to understanding the origins of this pervasive relationship has been study of the pollinators of living cycads, gnetaleans, and basal angiosperms. Among the most morphologically specialized living pollinators are diverse, long-proboscid flies. Early such flies include the brachyceran family Zhangsolvidae, previously known only as compression fossils from the Early Cretaceous of China and Brazil. It belongs to the infraorder Stratiomyomorpha, a group that includes the flower-visiting families Xylomyidae and Stratiomyidae. New zhangsolvid specimens in amber from Spain (ca. 105 mega-annum [Ma]) and Myanmar (100 Ma) reveal a detailed proboscis structure adapted to nectivory. Pollen clumped on a specimen from Spain is Exesipollenites, attributed to a Mesozoic gymnosperm, most likely the Bennettitales. Late Mesozoic scorpionflies with a long proboscis have been proposed as specialized pollinators of various extinct gymnosperms, but pollen has never been observed on or in their bodies. The new discovery is a very rare co-occurrence of pollen with its insect vector and provides substantiating evidence that other long-proboscid Mesozoic insects were gymnosperm pollinators. Evidence is thus now gathering that visitors and probable pollinators of early anthophytes, or seed plants, involved some insects with highly specialized morphological adaptations, which has consequences for interpreting the reproductive modes of Mesozoic gymnosperms and the significance of insect pollination in angiosperm success.
Early evolution and ecology of camouflage in insects.
Pérez-de la Fuente, R, Delclòs, X, Peñalver, E, Speranza, M, Wierzchos, J, Ascaso, C, Engel, MS
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
Taxa within diverse lineages select and transport exogenous materials for the purposes of camouflage. This adaptive behavior also occurs in insects, most famously in green lacewing larvae who nestle the trash among setigerous cuticular processes, known as trash-carrying, rendering them nearly undetectable to predators and prey, as well as forming a defensive shield. We report an exceptional discovery of a green lacewing larva in Early Cretaceous amber from Spain with specialized cuticular processes forming a dorsal basket that carry a dense trash packet. The trash packet is composed of trichomes of gleicheniacean ferns, which highlight the presence of wildfires in this early forest ecosystem. This discovery provides direct evidence of an early acquisition of a sophisticated behavioral suite in stasis for over 110 million years and an ancient plant-insect interaction.