Temporal range: Eocene
|A fossil of Palaeovespa florissantia|
Palaeovespa is an extinct genus of wasp in the Vespidae subfamily Vespinae. The genus currently contains seven species, five from the Priabonian stage Florissant Formation in Colorado, United States and two from the middle Eocene Baltic amber deposits of Europe.
History and Classification
The genus was first described by Dr. Theodore Cockerell in a 1906 paper published in the Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology. The genus name is a combination of the Greek palaios, meaning "old" and vespa from the genus Vespa, the type genus of the family Vespidae where Palaeovespa is placed.
Along with the genus description, the paper contained the description of the type species P. florissantia, P. scudderi and P. gillettei all from the Florissant Formation. Cockerell described a fourth species, P. baltica in 1909 from a specimen in Baltic amber. Five years later, in 1914, Cockerell described another species P. wilsoni from Florissant. In 1923, P. relecta was named by Cockerell, bring the species count to six, with five described from Florissant. Palaeovespa gained one more species, P. socialis, in 2005 when George Poinar, Jr. described a second species found in Baltic amber.
Palaeovespa is most similar to the extant genus Vespa, with which it shares many similar features such as a broad rounded thorax with a sessile abdomen that is broad at the base. The genus however possesses wing venation that is closer to the more primitive genus Polistes. Despite naming P. florissantia as the type species Cockerell noted that not all features of the genus were discernible in the P. forissantia holotype.