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Short description: Superorder of insects

Temporal range: Carboniferous–Recent 320–0 Ma
Temnopteryx species Zebra Cockroach Uniondale South Africa 1435.jpg
Temnopteryx sp.
Scientific classification e
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Cohort: Polyneoptera
Superorder: Dictyoptera
Latreille, 1829
Termite queen with soldiers

Dictyoptera (from Greek δίκτυον diktyon "net" and πτερόν pteron "wing") is an insect superorder that includes two extant orders of polyneopterous insects: the order Blattodea (termites and cockroaches together)[1] and the order Mantodea (mantises). All modern Dictyoptera have short ovipositors and typically lay oothecae. The oldest fossils of Dictyoptera from the Late Carboniferous, referred to as "roachoids" have long ovipositors and did not lay oothecae. The oldest modern oothecae-laying dictyopterans date to the Late Triassic.[2]

Classification and phylogeny

The use of the term Dictyoptera has changed over the years, and while largely out of use for much of the last century, it is becoming more widely used. It has usually been considered a superorder, with Isoptera, Blattodea and Mantodea being its three orders. In some classifications, however, Dictyoptera is shifted to order status and in others the order Isoptera has been subsumed under Blattodea while retaining Dictyoptera as a superorder. Regardless, in all classifications the constituent groups are the same, just treated at different rank. Termites and cockroaches are very closely related, with ecological and molecular data pointing to a relationship with the cockroach genus Cryptocercus.[3][4]

According to genetic evidence, the closest living relatives of the Dictyoptera are the orders Phasmatodea, Mantophasmatodea, and Grylloblattodea. If the Dictyoptera are considered a superorder these other orders might be included in it.[5]

Evolutionary relationships based on Eggleton, Beccaloni & Inward 2007 and modified by Evangelista et al. 2019, are shown in the cladogram:[6][7] The cockroach families Anaplectidae, Lamproblattidae, and Tryonicidae are not shown but are placed within the superfamily Blattoidea. The cockroach families Corydiidae and Ectobiidae were previously known as the Polyphagidae and Blattellidae.[8] The cladogram also shows the family Alienopteridae (originally assigned to its own order "Alienoptera") as sister to Mantodea, but it was subsequently reassigned to the extinct Blattodea superfamily Umenocoleoidea by Vršanský et al..[9]


Mantodea (Mantises)






Blaberidae (Giant cockroaches)


Corydiidae (Sand cockroaches, etc)

Nocticolidae (Cave cockroaches, etc)



Blattidae (Oriental, American and other cockroaches)




Cryptocercidae (brown-hooded cockroaches)

Termitoidae (Termites)











Praying mantis in defense position.
Deimatic behaviour of the mantis Oxyopsis sp.


  1. Beccaloni, G. W. 2014. Cockroach Species File Online. Version 5.0 World Wide Web electronic publication.
  2. Cariglino, Bárbara; Lara, María Belén; Zavattieri, Ana María (October 2020). "Earliest record of fossil insect oothecae confirms the presence of crown‐dictyopteran taxa in the Late Triassic" (in en). Systematic Entomology 45 (4): 935–947. doi:10.1111/syen.12442. ISSN 0307-6970. 
  3. Lo, Nathan; Tokuda, Gaku; Watanabe, Hirofumi; Rose, Harley; Slaytor, Michael; Maekawa, Kiyoto; Bandi, Claudio; Noda, Hiroaki (June 2000). "Evidence from multiple gene sequences indicates that termites evolved from wood-feeding cockroaches". Current Biology 10 (13): 801–804. doi:10.1016/s0960-9822(00)00561-3. PMID 10898984. 
  4. Legendre, Frédéric; Nel, André; Svenson, Gavin J.; Robillard, Tony; Pellens, Roseli; Grandcolas, Philippe; Escriva, Hector (22 July 2015). "Phylogeny of Dictyoptera: Dating the Origin of Cockroaches, Praying Mantises and Termites with Molecular Data and Controlled Fossil Evidence". PLOS ONE 10 (7): e0130127. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0130127. PMID 26200914. Bibcode2015PLoSO..1030127L. 
  5. Cameron, Stephen L.; Barker, Stephen C.; Whiting, Michael F. (January 2006). "Mitochondrial genomics and the new insect order Mantophasmatodea". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 38 (1): 274–279. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2005.09.020. PMID 16321547. 
  6. Eggleton, Paul; Beccaloni, George; Inward, Daegan (22 October 2007). "Response to Lo et al". Biology Letters 3 (5): 564–565. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2007.0367. 
  7. Evangelista, D.A.; Wipfler, B.; O., Bethoux; Donath, A.; Fujita, M.; Kohli, M.K.; Legendre, F.; Liu et al. (23 January 2019). "An integrative phylogenomic approach illuminates the evolutionary history of cockroaches and termites (Blattodea)". Proc. R. Soc. B 286 (1895). doi:10.1098/rspb.2018.2076. PMID 30963947. 
  8. Beccaloni, George W.; Eggleton, Paul (23 December 2011). "Order Blattodea Brunner von Wattenwyl, 1882. In: Zhang, Z.-Q. (Ed.) Animal biodiversity: An outline of higher-level classification and survey of taxonomic richness". Zootaxa 3148 (1): 199–200. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.3148.1.37. 
  9. Peter Vršanský; Günter Bechly; Qingqing Zhang; Edmund A. Jarzembowski; Tomáš Mlynský; Lucia Šmídová; Peter Barna; Matúš Kúdela et al. (2018). "Batesian insect-insect mimicry-related explosive radiation of ancient alienopterid cockroaches". Biologia 73 (10): 987–1006. doi:10.2478/s11756-018-0117-3. 

Further reading

Wikidata ☰ Q2087279 entry