This order once encompassed all insects with a complex network of wing veins, regardless of whether their metamorphosis was incomplete or complete. By the early 20th century, most of the species had been transferred to new orders, leaving only a small percentage of the insects once assigned to the Neuroptera remaining in that order. By the second half of the 20th century, some of the taxonomists began to believe that the fragmentation of this order had gone too far, and that the order Megaloptera needed to be grouped in some way with Neuroptera, either by making them suborders of the same order or by creating a superorder to accommodate both. Encyclopedia of South American Aquatic Insects: Neuroptera (Including Megaloptera) provides a discussion of both taxa, tentatively regrouping both in the order Neuroptera. While all known species of Megaloptera in South America have completely aquatic larval stages, few species in the suborder Planipennia, formerly called Neuroptera sensu stricto, are aquatic during any of their life stages. The most interesting of the exceptions are species in the family Sisyridae, some of which develop as larvae inside freshwater sponges.
Because only a relatively small number of species are still included in Neuroptera sensu lato, Encyclopedia of South American Aquatic Insects: Neuroptera (Including Megaloptera) provides keys to all known South American species that have been described well enough to be identified with any degree of certainty. Many species in the family Chloropidae, the neuropteran family with the greatest number of recognized species in South America, have proven to be valuable as biological controls for insect pests in agriculture. Their importance for tropical agriculture is another reason for including terrestrial species in this book.
The series will continue with volumes providing keys to identify species of other South American orders, but in most cases, only aquatic insects can be included in the keys to the species.
PART I General information
Chapter 1 Order 7: Neuroptera (sensu lato)
Chapter 2 Keys to the suborders and families
PART II Keys to the genera and species of Megaloptera families
Chapter 3 Sialidae
Chapter 4 Corydalidae
PART III Keys to the genera and species of Planipennia families
Chapter 5 Conopterygidae
Chapter 6 Ascaliphidae
Chapter 7 Myrmeleontidae
Chapter 8 Crocidae
Chapter 9 Nemopteridae
Chapter 10 Mantispidae
Chapter 11 Dilariidae
Chapter 12 Hemeropteriidae
Chapter 13 Olmylidae
Chapter 14 Polystoechotidae
Chapter 15 Sisyridae
Chapter 16 Chrysopidae
Chapter 17 Berothidae
The author, Dr. Charles W. Heckman, has performed ecological research in Laos, Thailand, Germany, Brazil, and the United States. His publications include books on rice field ecology in Thailand and the Pantanal wetland in western Brazil, as well as many monographs and shorter publications on various aspects of biology and environmental sciences. He undertook the preparation of the Encyclopedia of South American Aquatic Insects to produce a reference work with which researchers in South America can identify the species they encounter without having to first complete exhaustive searches of the literature, including papers published on several continents in different languages. The lack of such a tool has long impeded progress in faunal surveys, ecology, and other fields of science. Dr. Heckman's extensive experience identifying aquatic insect species using less than optimal literature has allowed him to develop an ability for recognizing the morphological features most useful for distinguishing one species from another, and this ability comes to the aid of the users of his keys to the South American aquatic insect species.