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Taiping Gao

College of Life Sciences
Capital Normal University
105 Xisanhuanbeilu,Haidian District
P. R. China

Dr. Taiping Gao

College of Life Sciences,
Capital Normal University

Research Interests:

The ectoparasitic insects
Ectoparasitic insects are some very interesting animal, including fleas, lice and others, which have a close relationship with humans. They cause many diseases, e.g. terrible "black death". Due to sparse records of putative ectoparasites, the origin, morphology, and early evolution of parasites and their associations with hosts are poorly known. We focus on the ectoparasitic insect fossils from Mesozoic of northeast of China. In recently research, we found some primitive flea fossils, showing many original characters of fleas, example the huge body size, long serrated stylets for piercing, etc. Based on these findings, we erected a family Pseudopulicidae Gao, Shih et Ren, 2012, they might have lived on and sucked the blood of relatively large hosts, such as contemporaneous feathered dinosaurs and/or pterosaurs or medium-sized mammals (also see the report, Gao et al., 2012, Current Biology).

Origin and evolution of Hymenopteran
Many hymenopteran fossils were found from the Mesozoic of northeast of China, these well-preserved fossils showed many interesting transitional characters of this group, tell us the story about how the lower hymenopteran changed during their early evolution. Very lucky, we have fossils from the Jurassic and Cretaceous, which highlight a broad diversity of hymenopteran insects in the Mesozoic.


B. S., Biology, Inner Mongolia University, 2005
M. S., Genetics, Capital Normal University, 2009
PhD, Genetics, Capital Normal University, 2013


Dong Ren, Chungkun Shih, Taiping Gao, Yunzhi Yao, Yunyun Zhao (2012)  Silent Stories - Insect fossil Treasures from Dinosaur Era of the Northeastern China.   Beijing: Science Press. 1-322pp  
Abstract: Since the mid 1990âs, there have been numerous scientifically important fossil findings from Hebei, Liaoning and Inner Mongolia in China. The studies of these fossils of feathered dinosaurs, pterosaurs, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and plants have signifi cantly increased our understanding of palaeontology, taxonomy, evolution, ecology and other natural sciences, re-written most text books on these subjects and raised the awareness and interest of the general public globally. Insects thrived, propagated and served important functions in their ecosystems from the Middle Jurassic to the Early Cretaceous. After sudden death, most likely due to poisonous gas and volcanic ashes, they were fossilized and preserved. Insect fossils, with excellent preservation of amazing details and broad diversity, have been discovered in large numbers from northeastern China. These insect fossils have silent stories to tell us. Living in the late Mesozoic and preserved in sedimentary rocks, these fossil insects have been studied at the Capital Normal University (CNU) in Beijing, under the leadership of Prof. Ren Dong and Prof. Shih Chungkun. Based on selected specimens from a vast collection of insect and plant fossils, we have reported our fi ndings in the past 10 yearsâa period of our âfoundation buildingâ. At present, we have a 30-member team of professors and graduate students. We have made some progress, but we also realize that more needs to be done and many areas to be upgraded. Engaging experts from universities and institutions around the world in joint research projects has greatly improved the effi ciency and effectiveness of uncovering silent stories from these insect fossils. We have exchanged visits, shared fossil specimens, and conducted joint research work. Synergy, cooperation and mutual learning greatly enhance the outcome. On average, our CNU Team with collaborators publish 30 to 40 SCI papers annually. Based on our reported results and other relevant information in the literature, we put representative insect fossil treasures as the center piece of this book. Noting that taxonomy is just part of the silent stories, we write this book with three focuses: natural science (highlighting entomology, insect morphology, taxonomy, geology, eco-system, pollination, mimicry, etc.), popular science of general interest (providing insect-related stories and cultures from China and other countries) and artistic appreciation (presenting beauty and elegance of fossil and extant insects as visual art). We have tried our best to achieve a proper balance of these three focal areas. This book is intended for a broad spectrum of potential readers, such as palaeontologists, entomologists, botanists, biologists, evolutionists, palaeoecologists, fossil collectors, naturalists, insect hobbyists, and students. We hope that readers will have fun reading this book while gaining some knowledge and enjoying the artistic presentations. Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, we will not be surprised that readers will spot mistakes due to our carelessness or ignorance. As such, comments, suggestions and corrections from readers are highly appreciated. Standing on the shoulders of academic giants and with support from many scientific and industrial leaders, we value this opportunity to publish this book. We honor pioneering contributions from the following renowned palaeoentomologists: Amadeus W. Grabau, Ping Chi, Hong Youchong, Lin Qibin, Gu Zhiwei and Chang Meemann. We appreciate the support and encouragement from Dr. Liu Xincheng, President of CNU and Dr. He Yikun, former Dean of College of Life Science, respectively. One of us, Dr. Shih, is grateful for the support of Stan Tebbe, Tony Gaskell and Dominique Fournier, former and present Presidents and/or Chief Executive Offi cers of Paramins or Infi neum. Thanks are due to Dr. Teh Chung Ho for his effort improving the English writing of this book. We also appreciate Jason Shih for providing professional and artistic photos of extant insects and Dr. Ji Shuâan and Dr. Xu Xing for providing fossil animal photos in Chapter 3. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 30430100, 40872022), the Nature Science Foundation of Beijing (No. 5082002) and the Scientifi c Research Key Program (KZ200910028005) and the PHR Project of Beijing Municipal Commission of Education. Overseas and Chinese collaborators who provided expertise, guidance and dedication are deeply appreciated. In alphabetical order, they are D. S. Aristov, A. V. Bashkuev, Cai Wanzhi, D. L. Dilcher, M. S. Engel, C. L. Hotton, Huang Diyin, A. G. Kirejtshuk, W. Krzemi ski, C. C. Labandeira, M. A. Logan, Lu Liwu, Lu Wenhua, V. N. Makarkin, A. Nel, O. Béthoux, J. D. Oswald, Pang Hong, J. F. Petrulevicius, A. Prokin, A. P. Rasnitsyn, J. A. Santiago-Blay, N. D. Sinitshenkova, A. Y. Solodovnikov, S. Y. Storozhenko, P. VrÅ¡anský, and Yang Ding. Representing CNU graduates whose published results are part of the book and current graduate students who participated in the book project but were not chapter coauthors are: Zhang Xiao, Jia Ting, Pan Xiaoxiong, Song Jingjing, Liu Ming, Liu Chenxi, Hao Jianying, Liu Pingjuan, Yang Xiaoguang, Shang Liangjie, Li Yanli, Wang Tiantian, Sun Jianhai, Meng Xiangming, Li Lianmei and Fang Shiwei. We thank them sincerely and deeply. It has been a humbling experience for all co-authors during the book preparation due to its broad scope, complexity of subject matters, and ever-changing knowledge base from newly discovered fossils and published papers. Thus, we present this book as a âtermâ report that summarizes results published before March 2010. With regret, many fossil treasures currently under study can not be showcased in this book. Entering the next phase of âgrowth and developmentâ for the next fi ve years, the CNU Team will strive to conduct broader-scoped and higher-quality research programs internally and jointly with our current and future collaborators around the world. With CNUâs excellent and vast fossil collection, we welcome and need additional collaborators and expertise to carry out more studies. We expect to apply new and advanced instrument, technology and methodology to gain a far better understanding of these fossils. We hope to update this book in the future to share with readers new fossil treasures and their silent stories. Science education, knowledge transfer, and research are some key missions of the CNU. This book provides college and graduate students with some general knowledge of natural science. In addition, we hope that teachers of middle and high schools will fi nd this book useful as a reference in natural science in general, and insect fossil, evolution, and eco-systems in particular. We hope some of these young students will be inspired to become future scientists, entomologists or palaeontologists to carry the torch into the futureâa bright future for natural sciences.

Journal articles

Taiping Gao, Chungkun Shih, Alexandr P Rasnitsyn, Dong Ren (2013)  Hoplitolyda duolunica gen. et sp. nov. (Insecta, Hymenoptera, Praesiricidae), the Hitherto Largest Sawfly from the Mesozoic of China.   PLoS ONE 8: (5). e62420.  
Abstract: Background Large body size of an insect, in general, enhances its capability of predation, competition, and defense, resulting in better survivability and reproduction. Hymenopterans, most being phytophagous or parasitic, have a relatively small to medium body size, typically under 50.0 mm in body length. Principal Findings Herein, we describe Hoplitolyda duolunica gen. et sp. nov., assigned to Praesiricidae, from the Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation of China. This new species is the largest fossil hymenopteran hitherto with body estimated >55.0 mm long and wing span >92.0 mm. H. duolunica is, to our knowledge, the only sawfly with Sc present in the hind wing but not in the forewing. Its Rs1 and M1 meeting each other at 145° angle represents an intermediate in the transition from âYâ to âTâ shapes. Even though Hoplitolyda differs significantly from all previously described genera in two subfamilies of Praesricidae, we leave the new genus unplaced in existing subfamilies, pending discovery of material with more taxonomic structure. Conclusions/Significance Hoplitolyda has many unique and interesting characters which might have benefitted its competition, survival, and reproduction: large body size and head with robust and strong mandibles for defense and/or sexual selection, unique wing venation and setal arrangements for flight capability and mobility, dense hairs on body and legs for sensing and protection, etc. Considering the reported ferocious predators of feathered dinosaurs, pterosaurs, birds, and mammals coexisting in the same eco-system, Hoplitolyda is an interesting case of âsurvival of the fittestâ in facing its evolutionary challenges.
Taiping Gao, Chungkun Shih, Alexandr P Rasnitsyn, Xing Xu, Shuo Wang, Dong Ren (2013)  New Transitional Fleas from China Highlighting Diversity of Early Cretaceous Ectoparasitic Insects   Current Biology 23: (13). 1261-1266.  
Abstract: Fleas are a group of highly specialized blood-feeding ectoparasites whose early evolutionary history is poorly known [1,2]. Although several recent discoveries have shed new light on the origin of the group [3,4], a considerable gap exists between stem fleas and crown fleas. Here we report a new transitional flea, Saurophthirus exquisitus sp. nov., assigned to a new family Saurophthiridae fam. nov., from the Lower Cretaceous Yixian Formation of northeastern China. Saurophthirids are more similar to crown fleas than other stem fleas in having a relatively small body size, relatively short and slender piercing-sucking stylet mouthparts, comparably short and compact antennae, rows of short and stiff bristles on the thorax, and highly elongated legs. The new finding greatly improves our understanding of the morphological transition to the highly specialized body plan of extant fleas. However, saurophthirids also display several features unknown in other fleas, and some of these features are suggestive of a possible ectoparasitic relationship to contemporaneous pterosaurs, though other possibilities exist. The new fossils, in conjunction with previous discoveries, highlight a broad diversity of ectoparasitic insects in the mid-Mesozoic.
Taiping Gao, Michael S Engel, Jaime Ortega-Blanco, Chungkun Shih, Dong Ren (2013)  A New Xyelydid Sawfly from the Early Cretaceous of China (Hymenoptera: Xyelydidae)   Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 86: (1). 78-83  
Abstract: Novalyda cretacica, new genus and new species (âSymphytaâ: Pamphilioidea: Xyelydidae), is described based on a unique male from the Early Cretaceous, Yixian Formation of northeastern China. The new species differs from others in the family by its relatively thick antenna, narrow costal cell, short first abscissa of Rs, sclerotization of the pterostigma. The species is the youngest occurrence of the family and extends the lineage into the Cretaceous period.
Taiping Gao, Chungkun Shih, Xing Xu, Shuo Wang, Dong Ren (2012)  Mid-Mesozoic flea-like ectoparasites of feathered or haired vertebrates   Current Biology 22: (8). 732-735  
Abstract: Parasite-host associations among insects and mammals or birds are well attended by neontological studies [1]. An Eocene bird louse compression fossil [2,3] and several flea specimens from Eocene and Oligocene ambers [4,5,6,7,8], reported to date, are exceptionally similar to living louse and flea taxa. But the origin, morphology, and early evolution of parasites and their associations with hosts are poorly known [9,10] due to sparse records of putative ectoparasites with uncertain classification in the Mesozoic, most lacking mouthpart information and other critical details of the head morphology [11,12,13,14,15]. Here we present two primitive flea-like species assigned to the Pseudopulicidae Gao, Shih et Ren familia nova (fam. nov.), Pseudopulex jurassicus Gao, Shih et Ren genus novum et species nova (gen. et sp. nov) from the Middle Jurassic [16] and P. magnus Gao, Shih et Ren sp. nov. from the Early Cretaceous in China [17]. They exhibit many features of ectoparasitic insects. Large body size and long serrated stylets for piercing tough and thick skin or hides of hosts suggest that these primitive ectoparasites might have lived on and sucked the blood of relatively large hosts, such as contemporaneous feathered dinosaurs and/or pterosaurs or medium-sized mammals (found in the Early Cretaceous, but not the Middle Jurassic).
Chenxi Liu, Taiping Gao, Chungkun Shih, Dong Ren (2011)  New Pelecinid Wasps (Hymenoptera: Proctotrupoidea: Pelecinidae) from the Yixian Formation of Western Liaoning, China   ACTA Geologica Sinica - English Edition 85: (4). 749-757.  
Abstract: Three well-preserved fossil Pelecinids from the Late Mesozoic Yixian Formation, Liaoning Province, China are described and assigned to two new species, Eopelecinus huangi sp. nov. and Eopelecinus tumidus sp. nov. in Eopelecinus Zhang, Rasnitsyn and Zhang, 2002. As of now, 17 species have been included in this genus, which is the most diverse in the Pelecinidae family. With new information and characters obtained from these new specimens, the diagnosis of Eopelecinus Zhang, Rasnitsyn and Zhang, 2002 is emended.
Taiping Gao, Yunyun Zhao, Dong Ren (2011)  New fossil Xyelidae (Insecta, Hymenoptera) from the Yixian Formation of western Liaoning, China.   ACTA Geologica Sinica - English Edition 85: (3). 528-532  
Abstract: In this paper one new genus and two new species, Brachyoxyela brevinodia sp. nov. and Brachyoxyela gracilenta sp. nov., in the subfamily Macroxyelinae of the family Xyelidae, are described and illustrated. The specimens were collected from the Yixian Formation, the Upper Jurassic to Lower Cretaceous, of Beipiao City, Liaoning Province, northeastern China. The new genus is established based on the characters that vein Sc meets R only beyond origin of Rs, third antennal segment is almost equal in length to the rest flagellomeres combined, terminal flagellomeres increasingly shortened toward apex, and vein 2r-rs inclined toward the apex of wing.
Taiping Gao, Alexander P Rasnitsyn, Dong Ren, Chungkun Shih (2010)  The first Praesiricidae (Hymenoptera) from Northeast China   Annales de la Société Entomologique de France (n.s.) 46: (1-2). 148-153  
Abstract: A new subfamily Rudisiricinae Gao, Rasnitsyn, Ren & Shih, n. subfam. and a new genus Rudisiricius Gao, Rasnitsyn, Ren & Shih, n. gen. with three new species R. belli Gao, Rasnitsyn, Ren & Shih n. sp., R. crassinodus Gao, Rasnitsyn, Ren & Shih, n. sp., and R. celsus Gao, Rasnitsyn, Ren & Shih, n. sp. are described and illustrated from the family Praesiricidae. The type specimens were collected from the Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation, northeastern China. The new subfamily also includes Aulidontes Rasnitsyn from the Upper Jurassic of Karatau in Kazakhstan. This is the fi rst record of Praesiricidae in China. These well-preserved nearly-complete new fossils reported here provide additional material and structure characters about this family, which helps fi lling some gap in the evolution of Lower Hymenoptera.
Taiping Gao, Chungkun Shih, Dong Ren (2009)  Abrotoxyela gen. nov. (Insecta, Hymenoptera, Xyelidae) from the Middle Jurassic of Inner Mongolia, China   Zootaxa 2094: 52-59  
Abstract: Abrotoxyela gen. nov. of Xyelidae and Abrotoxyela lepida sp. nov. and Abrotoxyela multiciliata sp. nov. are described from the Middle Jurassic Jiulongshan Formation of Daohugou Village, Inner Mongolia, China. The new genus is established on basis of the triple-branched vein Sc of the fore wing with first branch intersecting C at nearly 1/4 of its length; Sc terminates at C distal to the origin of Rs; and basal section of Rs approximately as long as that of M.
Taiping Gao, Dong Ren, Chungkun Shih (2009)  The First Xyelotomidae (Hymenoptera) From the Middle Jurassic in China   Annals of the Entomological Society of America 102: 4. 588-596  
Abstract: Three new genera with three new species and two new species of two known genera, all in the family of Xyelotomidae (Hymenoptera), are described and illustrated. These specimens were collected from the Middle Jurassic of Daohugou, Jiulongshan Formation, and the Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous of Dawangzhangzi, Yixian Formation, of China. A key to the known and new genera of Xyelotomidae is provided. Fourteen fossil genera with 20 species found so far from the Early Jurassic to the Early Cretaceous imply that Xyelotomidae was diverse and abundant during that period. New findings reported here provide additional evolutionary and transitional evidence of forewing Sc vein changed from two-branched to one-branched, to two separate parts, to apical part forming a crossvein, and nally to vestigial in Xyelotomidae from the Early Jurassic to the Early Cretaceous.
Taiping Gao, Dong Ren (2008)  Description of a new fossil Anthoxyela species (Hymenoptera, Xyelidae) from Yixian Formation of Northeast China   Zootaxa 1842: 56-62  
Abstract: This paper reports a new species Anthoxyela orientalis sp. nov. referred to the genus Anthoxyela Rasnitsyn, 1977 of the subfamily Macroxyelinae (Symphyta, Xyelidae). This fossil was collected from the Yixian Formation of western Liaoning, China. Based on characters of this specimen, the diagnosis of the genus Anthoxyela is revised.
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