Published: Sun, August 19, 2018
Science | By

"Frozen 99 million years": In ancient amber discovered beetle pollinator

The beetle, named Cretoparacucujus cycadophilus, is distinct in its form, compared to today's beetles.

"Boganiid beetles have been ancient pollinators for cycads since the Age of Cycads and Dinosaurs", he points out in a statement.

These primitive evergreens resemble palms and have been around for 300 million years but are now among the most threatened on Earth.

Chenyang Cai, study lead author and now a research fellow at the University of Bristol, explains that he was instantly intrigued by the discovery of the beetle.

It is believed that the mutually beneficial cooperation of Coleoptera beetles and cycads are commenced not less than 250 million years ago and possibly much earlier, although direct paleontological evidence is not found.

Dr Cai said: "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".

Those cycads didn't boast flowers, they did have pollen.

The new study reveals that ancient beetles pollinated cycads way before other insects pollinated flowering plants. It had a large head, slightly wider ithan ts thorax, sharp claws, big antennae and giant, protruding eyes. Unlike flowering plants, or angiosperms, gymnosperms had a simple fertilisation strategy.

The Early Jurassic is a geological period that spans from 201.3 to 174.1 million years ago.

The scientific staff of the Nanjing Institute of Geology and palaeontology found on the border with Myanmar ancient beetle pollinator, which has been preserved in amber. He recognized that its large mandibles with bristly cavities might suggest the beetle was a pollinator of cycads.

Cai cut and polished the piece of amber to get a clearer view of the beetle inside.

Dr. Cai examined the beetle thoroughly and minutely and spotted dozens of pollen's specks, some of which were even clustered in clumps, alongside the beetle.

The researchers also conducted an extensive phylogenetic analysis to explore the beetle's family tree. The boganiid beetle, the researches found, belonged to a group of Australian beetles that now pollinate the cycad Macrozamia riedlei.

He's been looking for them for the last five years.

Found in northern Myanmar's Kachin State, this chunk of 99-million-year-old Cretaceous amber contains a beetle with bits of pollen around it.

Bees and butterflies are primarily known for pollinating flowers.

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