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An unusual fossil was found revealing the last meal of prehistoric pollinators.

Pelretes Vivificus Vesting Angiosperm Flowers

Pelretes vivificus rebuilding of ecosystems gives Angio Sperm flowers in Burmese amber forest (~ 99 Ma) .Credits: Artwork by Mr.Jie Sun.

Amber fossil Cretaceous The beetles shed light on the diet of the most pollinated thistle.

The remains were discovered by researchers at Bristol University And the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NIGPAS) who were able to study fecal fossils consisting solely of pollen.

In addition to being a visitor to the angiosperm – flowering plants – the researchers concluded evidence that a new fossil, Pelretes vivificus, was also fed with their pollen. The details of these findings are published today. Natural plant.

“The beetle is associated with a group of pollen grains, suggesting that the short-winged, flower-winged beetle visited the Angiosperm in the Cretaceous period. Some beetle anatomy, such as the hairy abdomen, are also an adaptation involved in pollination, ”said Professor Chenyang Cai, a paleontologist at the School of Earth Sciences and NIGPAS.

A combination of Eudicot Pollen and Pollen-Containing Coprolites.

Combination of eudicot and copolyte with pollinators associated with Pelretes vivificus, amber pieces containing P. vivificus show coprolites and pollen aggregation. It is a detail of pollen under visible light (d) and confocal laser scanning microscope (b, c, e), scale bar: 1 mm (a), 50 μm in (b, e). , 100 μm (c, d) Credits: Chenyang Cai, Yanzhe Fu and Yitong Su.

Erik Tihelka, entomologist and paleontologist at the School of Earth Sciences added: “This fossil involves beetle copolyte, a fossilized fecal grain, which provides unusual insights. But it is very important about the diet of the Cretaceous short-winged flower beetle. Fossil pellets contain pollen, the same type found in clusters around the beetle and are attached to the body. So we know that Pelretes visit angiosperms to eat their pollen. The discovery is a direct link between Cretaceous flowering plants and their insects. It was shown that the fossils of these insects were not coincident with pollen only. But there is also a real biological relationship between the two. ”

While pollinators such as bees and butterflies serve important ecosystems today, little is known about the origins of the close relationship between flowering plants and insects.

Back view of the Pelretes vivificus.

Rear view of the Pelretes vivificus, the Cretaceous short-winged flower beetle. (Kateretidae) from Burmese amber (~ 99 Ma) Scale bar: 200 μm.Credits: Chenyang Cai, Yanzhe Fu and Yitong Su.

Cretaceous amber fossils provide an important source of evidence in understanding the biology of early angiosperm plants before they became the dominant group of plants on Earth. Amber is an ancient tree fossilized resin that often traps insects and other microscopic organisms, keeping it with life-like integrity.

“Farmers who want to protect their orchards can set sticky traps on the trees to check for insects. Imagine if your only insight into ancient ecosystems is such a tough trap, and that you have to rebuild all ecological interactions based on the source of this evidence. That’s a challenge for paleontologists to study amber, ”explains Tihelka.“ Fortunately, the northern Myanmar amber trap is one of the richest known sources of rich fossilized amber. In addition to the unparalleled abundance of insect fossils, amber dates back to the mid-Cretaceous period, when the Angiosperm was beginning to emerge. ”Tihelka say

Two hundred million years ago, the earth was as green as it is today, overgrown with dense vegetation. But it’s not colorful – there are no flowers. The flowering plants, which make up more than 80% of all plant species today, only began to propagate in the Cretaceous about 125 million years ago, with some scientists citing evolutionary success. Angio-sperm large-scale relationship with pollinators But fossil evidence of the Cretaceous pollinator is still rare.

The Pelretes vivificus flower beetle lived in Burma’s amber rainforest about 98 million years ago.Its closest relative is the short-winged insect. (Kateretidae) that originated in Australia today, visit a wide variety of flowers and eat their pollen.

“The pollen involved in beetles can be assigned to the fossil genus. Tricolpopollenites This group is attributed to eudicots, a living group of angiosperms, which includes the Malpighiales and Ericales orders, ”explains Dr. Liqin Li, fossil pollen expert at NIGPAS who participated in the study.

This showed that pollinators made use of the angio sperm early shortly after their first dispersal and in the mid-Cretaceous period visited various groups.

Reference: “Angiosperm Pollination in Cretaceous Beetles” by Erik Tihelka, Liqin Li, Yanzhe Fu, Yitong Su, Diying Huang and Chenyang Cai, 12 April 2021, Available here. Natural plant.
DOI: 10.1038 / s41477-021-00893-2

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