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Beetle trapped in amber 99 mya offers window into prehistoric ecology

mid-Cretaceous beetle in amber, with mandibular cavities likely used for pollination/Chenyang Cai

Amber is, in some ways, like a very-slow motion vid. From ScienceDaily:

Flowering plants are well known for their special relationship to the insects and other animals that serve as their pollinators. But, before the rise of angiosperms, another group of unusual evergreen gymnosperms, known as cycads, may have been the first insect-pollinated plants. 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 discovery came in the form of an ancient boganiid beetle preserved in Burmese amber for an estimated 99 million years along with grains of cycad pollen. The beetle also shows special adaptations, including mandibular patches, for the transport of cycad pollen.

“Boganiid beetles have been ancient pollinators for cycads since the Age of Cycads and Dinosaurs,” says Chenyang Cai, now a research fellow at the University of Bristol. “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.” Paper. (open access) – Chenyang Cai, Hermes E. Escalona, Liqin Li, Ziwei Yin, Diying Huang, Michael S. Engel. Beetle Pollination of Cycads in the Mesozoic. Current Biology, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.06.036 More.

So, in another instance of “earlier than thought,” pollination seems to have preceded flowering plants.

From The Scientist:

This amber fossil “almost captures behavior, and that’s really hard in the fossil record,” says Nathalie Nagalingum, a plant evolutionary biologist at the California Academy of Sciences who was not involved in the study. “It’s not exactly showing that the pollen grains were on the insects, but it’s almost there. It’s kind of remarkable.”

Previous findings have shown that both beetles and cycads were around at least 250 million years ago, and may have been interacting even back then. ABBY OLENA, “Fossilized Beetle Is Earliest Evidence of Insect Pollinator” at The Scientist

Talk about challenging the resources of randomly generated developments…

See also: Spider in amber is 49 million-year-old member of living genus

Stasis: Dinosaur-era baby snake looks just like modern ones

“Live action” captured in a spider’s web from 100 million years ago

How did 20-30 myo salamander in amber get IN there?


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