The oldest known pollen-laden insect fossils are earwig-like land-dwellers, which lived in what is now Russia about 280 million years ago, researchers report. The discovery traces fossils of insects transporting pollen from one plant to another, a key aspect of modern pollination, for about 120 million years.
Insects – a genus that eats pollen Tillyardembia first described in 1937 — they were typically about 1.5 centimeters long, said Alexander Khramov, a paleoentomologist at the Borissiak Paleontological Institute in Moscow. The thin feathers probably kept the animals mostly in the forest floor, leaving them to climb trees to find and consume their own pollen.
Recently, Khramov and his colleagues analyzed 425 fossils Tillyardembia collected in law. Six ferns had pollen grains on their heads, feet, thoraxes or abdomens, the team reports on Feb. 28. Biology literature. That small proportion is not surprising, Khramov says, because the fossils are preserved in what the sediments originated in. The early fossilization of such material tended to wash away the pollen from the remains of insects.
Pollen-laden insects caught only two types of pollen in them, the team found, suggesting that the critters were quite selective in the types of trees they visited. “There’s a kind of specialization system with potential pollinators,” says Michael Engel, a paleoentomologist at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, who was not involved in the study. “There is probably nothing like the amount of specialization that has been done before.” Tillyardembiawe just don’t have evidence of it yet.
Further study of these fossils will tell if Tillyardembia They evolved special pollen-preparing hairs or other such structures on their bodies or heads, says Conrad Labandeira, a paleoecologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, also not part of the study. It would also be interesting, he says, to see if something about the pollen sticks in the insects. If pollen grains have structures that close more easily, for example, then the same velcro-like features may have helped capture any hairy structures on the bodies of insects.
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