This beetle had a head full of pollen for 99 million years

This image shows a dorsal view of the mid Cretaceous beetle Cretoparacucujus cycadophilus including the mandibular cavities it likely used for pollination

Indeed, the beetle had clumps of pollen grains with it.

The fossil represents the earliest definitive fossil evidence for cycad-insect interactions, and illuminates the ancient history of the establishment of complex entomophily in cycads.

Flowering plants are well known for their special relationship to the insects and other animals that serve as their pollinators.

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

Their descendants still exist, among them conifers, gingkoes and cycads, which are fern-like plants that live mainly in the tropics.

The researchers discovered a new genus and species of boganiid beetle, named Cretoparacucujus cycadophilus Cai and Escalona, 2018, preserved with many tiny cycad pollen grains and possessing specialized mandibular patches for the transport of cycad pollen. More convincing evidence of insectoid pollinators dates back 165 million years, to the Middle Jurassic, in the form of fossilised scorpionflies, who likely used their long proboscis to pollinate non-flowering plants.

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He got into a flow after the players warmed up again. "I didn't know if it meant the end of the night or that we would come back". Rain resulted in three matches suspended overnight. "I will not complain, but it was a tough day".

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

Though this piece of amber is 99-million-years-old, Dr. Cai and Dr. Engel think it provides a snapshot of a pollination process that may be much older, possibly dating to the Triassic Period.

After the study researchers cut, trimmed, and polished the specimen, they examined it under a microscope.

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

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. It acted like a pocket, where they could collect pollen.

The insect in question, no more than two millimeters long, belongs to the ancient boganiid family - known cycad pollinators, notes Gizmodo. The structure of body parts (mandibles, mouth apparatus and paws) found insect allowed scientists akin to it with representatives of living Paracucujus Australian beetles, which pollinate the modern representative of the cycads Macrozamia riedlei. These pollens point out to the existence of the earlier insect-pollinated plant species.


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