Butterflies origin pushed back in time

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Butterflies origin pushed back in time

The findings are fascinating due to the nature of butterflies and moths being fragile creatures and fossils of them are rare to find. He detected that among 70 scales some scales from around 200 million years ago. The new find fits the time line for Lepidoptera evolution suggested by molecular evidence-and helps correct a puzzling gap in the fossil record. Scientists found fossilised butterfly scales the size of a speck of dust inside ancient rock from Germany. Using an electron microscope, they also found that about 20 of the scales were hollow. According to the scientists, it is hard to get the fossilized remains of moths and butterflies as their body and wings are very delicate. When he analyzed those scales under a microscope, he found out that some scales nearly 200 million years old, were hollow in structure.

Normally, the butterflies use their tongue like proboscis.

That coevolution, and the often exquisitely precise matchup between flower and pollinator, have been a subject of perennial fascination for naturalists. Darwin wrote to a friend.

Just about every butterfly and moth that has hollow scales today has a proboscis, Mr. van Eldijk said. Just such a moth, with an 11-inch-long coiled proboscis, finally turned up 45 years later.

Examples of the oldest wing and body scales of primitive moths from the Schandelah-1 core photographed with transmitted light (magnification 630x). They argue instead that the transition among these insects "to exclusively feeding on liquids was most likely an evolutionary response to widespread heat and aridity" during the late Triassic.

From within rocks, a few dozen fossils almost too small to see with the naked eye can tell an important history of the evolution of moths and butterflies.

"The mass extinction event occurred at the end of the Triassic and was associated with massive volcanism as the super continent Pangea started to break apart", said study lead author and Utrecht University student.

Other scientists greeted the find with excitement, as it begins to fill what University of CT lepidopterist David Wagner calls "this huge gap in the fossil record". The new study also has revealed that the butterflies and moths have the capability to survive under adversity. That, he said, suggested there were butterflies and moths with proboscises fluttering around 200 million years ago. Furthermore, if the scientists are right, it means that the butterfly and moth family didn't evolve their proboscis to feed from flowers specifically, but that the appendages came in handy later when flowers evolved. This "proboscis" unfurls like a flexible silly straw to suck nectar out of flowers. The scales were described as "not diagnostic", Strother said - meaning such parts did not belong only to a specific insect group. But there was even more. They could be like ancient mammals, hanging around, being small and not doing much till the asteroid hits"-or in the case of the Lepidopteranproboscis, until the emergence of flowers". "That creates this problem", said Mr. van Eldijk.

"We hypothesize that feeding on pollination droplets was one of the key drivers behind the evolution of the proboscis", van de Schootbrugge said. You have to imagine 70 scales amid millions and millions of pollens and spores. It would just take a lot of grunt work down the barrel of a microscope. "But we are hoping that other people are going to follow".

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