Amber is appreciated not only by friends of lush necklaces, but also by scientists. Because in fossil resins, many prehistoric caterpillars, flies or dragonflies survived from one geological age or another.
Now scientists have put another time capsule under the microscope, which could bring many exciting discoveries in paleontology: dinosaur feces. An international research group has discovered samples of an early type of beetle in such a junkyard of giants, which became largely extinct from an asteroid collision about 66 million years ago. It is the first insect discovered in the excrement of fossils.
It has survived there for an estimated 230 million years and comes from the Triassic period. A team led by first author Martin Qvarnström of Sweden’s Uppsala University was able to make the insects named Triamyxa coprolithica visible with the help of special microimaging, as shown in Fakhlat “Current Biology” Writes.
The fossil excrement contained many parts of the beetles, most of which were of the same small species. Some animals have been almost completely preserved, with many sensitive legs and antennae intact.
With the help of their recordings, the researchers reconstructed a 3D model of the beetle. “I was really amazed to see how well the beetles are preserved. When I replicated them on the screen, it was as if they were looking at you directly,” said first author Martin Kvarnstrom from Uppsala University, Sweden. Researchers from Taiwan, Mexico and France as well as Rolf Beutle from University of Jena.
Researchers suspect that the insects were eaten by a relatively small relative of the dinosaur, Celisaurus. He had an estimated body weight of 15 kilograms and lived in what is now Poland about 230 million years ago. The animal had a beak that could be used to pick out insects – just as birds do today.
ladybug Triamyxa coprolithica is a previously unknown extinct line of the suborder Myxophaga, modern representatives of which are small and live in moist algal environments.
With the discovery that fossilized excrement, also known as coprolite, could contain ancient species of insects, it opens a new field for researchers – amber has provided to date the best-preserved insect fossils. However, the oldest coprolites are about 140 million years old, and thus are from a relatively new geological time. The researchers hope to be able to look further into the past and learn more about the evolution of insects in unexplored time periods.
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