Amazingly preserved remains of a 99-million-year-old beetle

Alongside the beetle were perfectly preserved grains of pollen that were a match to cycads

Alongside the beetle were perfectly preserved grains of pollen that were a match to cycads

Several geological eras later some scientists found that beetle and had a very good day. This suggests that cycads may have been the first insect-pollinated plants.

Cycads, or leafhoppers, are the most ancient gymnosperm plant, common on the earth before the emergence of flowering plants.

Upon closer inspection of the beetle, the researchers also found that the specimen had specially adapted mandibular patches to help transport pollen strengthening the hypothesis that this beetle was an early pollinator.

The discovery came in the form of an ancient boganiid beetle preserved in Burmese amber for an estimated 99 million years along with grains of cycad pollen.

Additionally, its large mandibles suggest the bettle likely pollinated cycads, according to Dr. Cai's supervisor, Diying Huang.

Found in northern Myanmar's Kachin State, this chunk of 99-million-year-old Cretaceous amber contains a beetle with bits of pollen around it. 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. Less well-known is the pollinating abilities of bees, which dates back to millions of years and involves non-flowering plants or gymnosperms.

Often insects, plant material, pollen and other creatures became trapped in the resin, causing them to be entombed within after it solidified.

"Boganiid beetles have been ancient pollinators for cycads since the Age of Cycads and Dinosaurs", said University of Bristol research fellow and lead author Chenyang Cai in a statement.

Phylogenetic analyses of the beetle and associated pollen grains conducted by Dr. CAI Chenyang from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NIGPAS) and his colleagues indicated that it was probably a pollinator of early cycads.

Dr Cai said: "Our find indicates a probable ancient origin of beetle pollination of cycads at least in the Early Jurassic, long before angiosperm dominance and the radiation of flowering-plant pollinators, such as bees, later in the Cretaceous".

Beetles commonly pollinate cycads in South Africa and Australia - supporting an ancient origin of the relationship, say the researchers.

It belongs to a family of beetles known as boganiids and had been pollinating the world's oldest seed plants, called cycads.

Cai has been attempting to find similar beetle pollinators that are left undiscovered.

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