Published: Sun, August 19, 2018
Research | By Jody Lindsey

Amazingly preserved remains of a 99-million-year-old beetle

Amazingly preserved remains of a 99-million-year-old beetle

The beetle carried several clumps of tiny pollen grains.

Pollination of plants by animals - a story that began long before the appearance of angiosperms.

Another awesome discovery in amber from Myanmar - beetle, epilepsy the cycads before the death of dinosaurs and the emergence of flowering plants.

Pollinators bring to mind flowering plants.

A new discovery of a beetle preserved in 99-million-year-old amber offers a picture of some of the earliest pollinating insects on the planet.

Though this piece of amber is 99-million-years-old, Dr. Cai and Dr. Engel think it provides a snapshot of a pollination process that may be much older, possibly dating to the Triassic Period.

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After cutting, trimming, and polishing the specimen to get a better look under a microscope, his excitement only grew. It is assumed that from that time on, the main partners of the cycads was made by beetles of the family Boganiidae. Now, researchers reporting in the journal Current Biology on August 16 have uncovered the earliest definitive fossil evidence of that intimate relationship between cycads and insects. The boganiid beetle, the researches found, belonged to a group of Australian beetles that now pollinate the cycad Macrozamia riedlei.

Chenyang Cai, a palaeontologist from the University of Bristol and the lead author of the new study, said it's the only boganiid beetle out of over 22,000 amber pieces now housed at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology (where the new fossil is also being kept). "Our find indicates a probable ancient origin of beetle pollination of cycads at least in the Early Jurassic, long before angiosperm dominance and the radiation of flowering-plant pollinators, such as bees, later in the Cretaceous". Dr Cai consulted Dr Liqin Li, an expert in ancient pollen, who confirmed that the pollen grains belonged to a cycad. He's been looking for them for the last five years.

The insect in question, no more than two millimeters long, belongs to the ancient boganiid family - known cycad pollinators, notes Gizmodo.

The interesting thing about this insect, aside from the cycad pollen encapsulated along with it, is that it sports a series of special adaptations which indicate it had a pollen diet.

Although the finding of Cretoparacucujus cycadophilus is remarkable in both its level of detail and age, Dr. Cai believes that additional beetles from that era and perhaps even older, have yet to be found.

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