MARSEILLE, France, May 4 (UPI) -- A cicada-like creature called the treehopper has a third pair of wings in a reversal of usual insect evolution, French scientists say.
The findings by Benjamin Prud'homme and colleagues at the Institute of the Biology of Development in Marseille are reported in the journal Nature this week.
Insects' wings vary widely, but it was believed they grew only from the second and third segments of the thorax. The treehopper's "helmet," which grows from the first thoracic segment, runs the length of the body, and has a range of colors, shapes and sizes.
Previous research suggested the helmet came from exoskeletal plates on the first thoracic segment. Prud'homme and his team say it is actually a fused pair of wings, although it is not used for flying.
The researchers say the treehoppers' helmet is the first known example of new body appendages appearing in more than 250 million years of insect evolution.