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

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

"Boganiid beetles have been ancient pollinators for cycads since the Age of Cycads and Dinosaurs", said University of Bristol research fellow and lead author Chenyang Cai in a statement.

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That suspicion spurred research into the matter, during which time Cai brought in another researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Liqin Li, who is an ancient pollen expert.

Upon closer inspection of the beetle, the researchers also found that the specimen had specially adapted mandibular patches to help transport pollen strengthening the hypothesis that this beetle was an early pollinator. Researchers hope to use the beetle to investigate the ancient relationship between pollinators and plants some 250 million years ago, long before flowering plants appeared and dinosaurs still walked the planet.

The remains of a 99-million-year old beetle have been discovered, perfectly preserved in amber, fossilized resin that originates from the bark of a tree. This discovery may turn the idea of beetle pollinators in the earlier periods of the Earth's existence."Our finding indicates a very ancient origin of the pollination beetles cicadas, at least in the early Jurassic, long before the advent and spread of flowering plants and their pollinators, such as bees and butterflies", said the paleontologist.Evidence of early pollination is rare, so the new study is so awesome.

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Earth's oldest pollinating insects are a bit of a mystery, but fossilised insect dung containing bits of pollen suggest they first emerged during the Middle Triassic (247 million to 237 million years ago). The boganiid beetle, the researches found, belonged to a group of Australian beetles that now pollinate the cycad Macrozamia riedlei.

Beetles commonly pollinate cycads in South Africa and Australia - supporting an ancient origin of the relationship, say the researchers. They even defecate within flowers, earning them the nickname "mess and soil" pollinators.

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.

Dr Cai believes similar beetle pollinators of cycads are yet to be found.

One of the worst threats comes from the trade in wild plants for the horticultural trade.

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