In many beetles the hindwings are reduced to mere vestiges useless for flight, or are altogether absent, and in such cases the two elytra are often fused together at the suture; thus organs originally intended for flight have been transformed into an armour-like covering for the beetle's hind-body.
As shown by the number and variety of species, the Orthoptera are the most dominant order of this group. Eminently terrestrial in habit, the differentiation of their fore-wings and hindwings can be traced from Carboniferous, isopteroid ancestors through intermediate Mesozoic forms. The Plecoptera resemble the Ephemeroptera and Odonata in the aquatic habits of their larvae, and by the occasional presence of tufted thoracic gills in the imago exhibit an aquatic character unknown in any other winged insects.
Both foreand hindwings are usually present, both pairs being membranous, the hindwings small and not folded when at rest, each provided along the costa with a row of curved hooks which catch on to a fold along the dorsum of the adjacent fore-wing during flight.
I) which the insect uses in arranging the hindwings beneath the elytra.
The hindwings have a firm costal area, and a more delicate anal area which folds fanwise, so that they are completely covered by the forewings when the insect rests.
In the Mesozoic rocks (Trias and Lias) there have been discovered remains of insects intermediate between those ancient forms and our modern cockroaches, the differentiation between forewings and hindwings having begun.