Butterfly scale fossils show they have been around at least 200M years

Butterfly scale fossils show they have been around at least 200M years

Butterfly scale fossils show they have been around at least 200M years

The rock sample was drilled from the ground in Germany near Hanover.

"Modern day butterflies are well known for their association with flowering plants (angiosperms) and the butterfly "tongue" has always been assumed to be an important adaptation for feeding on flowering plants".

He said: "The microfossils extend the minimum calibrated age of glossatan moths by about 70 million years - refuting ancestral association of the group with flowering plants".

The earliest known butterfly fossils are from the mid Eocene epoch - between 40-50 million years ago.

He said. The study further revealed that the latest research of fossilized remains of the butterflies and moths with proboscis suggest that they are about 70 million years older than the previously analyzed fossils of moths.

Example of a living representative of a primitive moth belonging to the Glossata, moths that bear a proboscid adapted for sucking up fluids, including nectar.

This, as the researchers hypothesize, was likely used to feed on the sugary, sticky droplets non-flowering plants or gymnosperms produced to trap pollen from the air. "They were feeding off the cone-borne seeds - mainly as a source of water".

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But even Charles Darwin called the mysterious evolution of flowering plants "an abominable mystery". Scientists have reckoned that flowering plants preceded the insects that fed off of them. Previous molecular studies on the creatures suggest a similar early evolution of proboscis-bearing butterflies and moths, Fabien Condamine, a butterfly researcher who was not involved in the study, tells Hersher. But understanding how these primitive butterflies and moths evolved is important to shedding light on how modern day climate change could impact today's insects.

Strother said the insects "later transferred their feeding preference onto angiosperms [flowering plants], and, as a result, ended up co-evolving with flowers where they function to transfer pollen as they feed on nectar". Scientists found fossilised butterfly scales the size of a speck of dust inside ancient rock from Germany.

The study could also provide insight into the conservation of butterflies and moths - some of the most-studied insects - given the widespread decline in flying insects generally. In addition, their delicate features were prone to deterioration prior to fossilization.

"The nose hair has just the right length and springiness for getting a pollen grain, or in this case the butterfly scale, to adhere to it", Mr. van Eldijk said.

The sample dated to the boundary between the end of the Triassic Period and the beginning of the Jurassic Period, approximately 200 million years ago, researchers said.

Assembling the evidence required a team that included Strother and van de Schootbrugee, Utrecht University's Timo van Eldijk, an undergraduate at the time, Carolien Weijst, and Henk Visscher; as well as Torsten Wappler of the German natural history museum Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt, and Hossein Rajaei of Museum fur Naturkunde, in Stuttgart. Resistant organic material. Insect legs.

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