Amber fossil suggests ancient beetle pollinated evergreen cycads

Mindy Sparks
August 19, 2018

When a beetle flies to the cones of a male plant, perhaps seeking pollen to eat or for a place to lay its eggs, it brushes against the pollen.

Indeed, a fascinating aspect about early pollinating insects is that they were paired with non-flowering plants (gymnosperms), rather than flowering plants (angiosperms).

Another fantastic discovery in amber from Myanmar - beetle, epilepsy the cycads before the death of dinosaurs and the emergence of flowering plants.

They may have been the first insect-pollinated plants, according to the research published in Current Biology. Though the beetle has always been suspect No. 1 for shuttling pollen from male to female cycads, the new specimen, found in Myanmar, significantly strengthens the case, The New York Times reports.

The remains of a 99-million-year old beetle have been discovered, perfectly preserved in amber, fossilized resin that originates from the bark of a tree.

He recognised its large jaws with bristly cavities might suggest the beetle was a pollinator of cycads.


Today, August 16, it became known that the paleontologists discovered the beetle pollinator, frozen in ancient amber for 99 million years, in the Northern state of Kachin in Myanmar. What is more fascinating is that, after we did some preparation of the sole amber piece - cutting, trimming and polishing - under high-magnification compound microscopy, we found many tiny pollen grains by the side of the beetle.

Those cycads didn't boast flowers, they did have pollen. This makes it the earliest definitive fossil evidence of beetles possible helping pollinate cycads.

"Boganiid beetles have been ancient pollinators for cycads since the Age of Cycads and Dinosaurs", said Chenyang Cai, an author of the study. This discovery suggests an ancient origin for beetle pollination of cycads long before the rise of flowering plants. Researchers hope to use the beetle to investigate the ancient relationship between pollinators and plants some 250 million years ago, long before flowering plants appeared and dinosaurs still walked the planet. Li analyzed pollen grains from the amber first spotted by Cai, confirming that it had come from a cycad.

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.

A phylogenetic analysis explored the beetle's family tree, showing that the insect belonged to a sister group to the extant (still surviving) Australian Paracucujus, which pollinate the relic cycad Macrozamia riedlei.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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