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Short description: Subclass of insects

Temporal range: Serpukhovian–Recent
Gaint Honey Bee (Apis dorsata) on Tribulus terrestris W IMG 1020.jpg
Giant honey bee Apis dorsata (order Hymenoptera) on Tribulus terrestris
Scientific classification e
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
(unranked): Dicondylia
Subclass: Pterygota
Gegenbaur, 1878[1]

The Pterygota (Ancient Greek:) are a subclass of insects that includes all winged insects and the orders that are secondarily wingless (that is, insect groups whose ancestors once had wings but that have lost them as a result of subsequent evolution).[2]

The pterygotan group comprises 99.9% of all insects.[3] The orders not included are the Archaeognatha (jumping bristletails) and the Zygentoma (silverfishes and firebrats), two primitively wingless insect orders. Also not included is Entognatha, which consist of three orders no longer considered to be insects: Protura, Collembola, and Diplura.

Unlike Archaeognatha and Zygentoma, the pterygotes do not have styli or vesicles on their abdomen (also absent in some zygentomans), and with the exception of the majority of mayflies, are also missing the median terminal filament which is present in the ancestrally wingless insects.[4][5][6]

The oldest known representatives of the group appeared during the mid-Carboniferous, around 328–324 million years ago, and the group subsequently underwent a rapid explosive diversification. Claims that they originated substantially earlier during the Silurian or Devonian based on molecular clock estimates are unlikely based on the fossil record, and are likely analytical artefacts.[7]


Traditionally, this group was divided into the infraclasses Paleoptera and Neoptera.[8] The former are nowadays strongly suspected of being paraphyletic, and better treatments (such as dividing or dissolving the group) are presently being discussed[citation needed]. In addition, it is not clear how exactly the neopterans are related among each other. The Exopterygota might be a similar assemblage of rather ancient hemimetabolous insects among the Neoptera like the Palaeoptera are among insects as a whole. The holometabolous Endopterygota seem to be very close relatives, indeed, but nonetheless appear to contain several clades of related orders, the status of which is not agreed upon.

The following scheme uses finer divisions than the one above, which is not well-suited to correctly accommodating the fossil groups.

Infraclass Palaeoptera

(probably paraphyletic)

Infraclass Neoptera

Superorder Exopterygota

Superorder Endopterygota

Neoptera orders incertae sedis


External links

Wikidata ☰ Q22708 entry